Pitt expected a test tonight and almost got more than it could handle. The Panthers won 83-75, but could never pull away from Rhode Island had their hands full all night.
The biggest problem for Pitt was that they were ice cold from three-point range (3-16), while Rhode Island scored more than half of their field goals from beyond the arc. Rhode Island was also surprisingly physical. It was as if Pitt were facing a Big East team. Rhode Island defended well and essentially matched Pitt’s toughness – something that’s hard to do.
As a team, Pitt shot only 45% and missed an unbelievable 17 layups, according to ESPN.com’s play-by-play chart.
Fortunately for Pitt, Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs showed up in a big way. The pair combined for 46 points and shot better than 50% from the field. If both players can continue that sort of production, they’ll obviously be tough to beat.
It wasn’t all Gibbs and Wanamaker, though. Redshirt freshman Talib Zanna looked really good, with nine points and eleven rebounds. He was the only Pitt player in double-digit rebounds and no one else even had more than six (Gary McGhee). Nasir Robinson is the starter at power forward in large part because of his rebounding. But if Pitt sticks with Zanna even beyond Robinson’s injury, I don’t know that he can’t be a better rebounder and, because of his scoring ability, an overall upgrade.
Pitt may have been tested more than it wanted, but this is a nice win over a pretty good team.
Rhode Island was led by Delroy James' 20 points, 17 of which came in the second half.
For more post-game analysis, stop over at Pitt blog Cardiac Hill.