No. 5 Pitt's win over Northwood (Fla.) University on Sunday and the Panthers' defeat of Indiana University of Pennsylvania on Thursday were both exhibition victories, but the similarities between the two games stop there.
Pitt beat Northwood by 42 points, with 11 players taking the floor, five players scoring in double figures, and three scoring at least 17 points. On Thursday, the Panthers faced far stiffer competition, didn't have a player score more than 13 points, and never led by more than 21.
All of that aside, Pitt did beat the in-state Crimson Hawks 73-56 at the Petersen Events Center. But for the players and coaches, the performance wasn't exactly convincing.
"Today we got outworked; no one wants to say it, but the other team outworked us today," senior guard Brad Wanamaker said after the game.
Wanamaker was his usual stat-stuffing self on Thursday night, with 13 points, a team-high 6 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, and 3 rebounds (and 2 turnovers). But his fellow primary producer on the team, junior Ashton Gibbs, did little to support the cause, scoring just five points on 2-of-11 shooting.
But with Gibbs caught in a quiet night - a scenario created largely by unlucky bounces and some tough defense from IUP - a pair of less-likely scorers showed up in redshirt sophomore Travon Woodall and redshirt freshman Lamar Patterson, who each scored 13 points.
When IUP cut the lead to nine points with 11:22 remaining in the game, Woodall and Patterson provided the spark, combining to outscore IUP 19-9 over the next six minutes. The run began with Woodall scoring on a jump shot and a layup; then Patterson hit a trio of consecutive three's; and then Woodall connected for two of his own three's, with an assist from Patterson on one of those shots.
Pitt eventually stretched the lead to 21 before IUP pulled within 17 at the end.
"Those guys played hard and didn't give up throughout the game," Woodall said of the Crimson Hawks. "They just kept fighting."
Patterson was making his 2010-11 debut Thursday night after missing the first exhibition game due to an ankle injury. He spent most of his on-court time at small forward, although he also worked at shooting guard and power forward in the game, and his versatility will give head coach Jamie Dixon a multitude of lineup options.
"When I came to Pitt, I felt that I needed to learn every position so I knew where I had to be on the court," Patterson said. "It felt good to be back on the court with these guys. They're my family. It's better than watching, and I'm back now."
The Patterson-Woodall outburst in the second half overcame a first half in which Pitt struggled to deal with IUP's matchup zone. The Panthers held a 10-point lead at halftime.
"I was impressed with how hard IUP played and what they did, and I was happy with how we did in the second half," Dixon said. "We executed better in the second half against the matchup zone. In the first half, I probably didn't run the right stuff we needed to run against it; in the second half, we ran better stuff and got open shots and did a better job attacking, for the most part."
Pitt's first-half struggles were mitigated to a large degree by IUP's own difficulties on the offensive end. The Crimson Hawks hit just one of their first 13 field goal attempts and went into halftime with a 25.8% (8-of-31) field-goal percentage.
Pitt opens the 2010-11 regular season on Monday night when the Panthers host Rhode Island at the Petersen Events Center. Dixon was succinct on Thursday when asked what his team needs to improve on.
"Everything, to put it accurately and bluntly and not surprisingly."
Notes: Senior center Gary McGhee put up a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds…Redshirt senior Gilbert Brown made his 2010-11 debut after missing the first exhibition game with a hamstring injury. He scored five points and grabbed one rebound in 19 minutes while playing small forward and shooting guard…Fresh off a 17-point performance against Northwood, freshman small forward J.J. Moore played just six minutes on Thursday, scoring three points and grabbing three rebounds (all on the offensive glass)…Freshmen Cameron Wright and Isaiah Epps did not play in the game. "It's just numbers; add 'em up," Dixon said regarding the lineup and personnel decisions. "Not everybody can play. It's just where the numbers are."