Pitt shook off the rust after three lackluster performances and looked like, well, Pitt in a 78-58 win over Penn on the road.
The Panthers haven’t looked that impressive in close wins against Rider and La Salle and a loss to Long Beach State, but had a big win over the Quakers in the Palestra.
Even more impressive was the fact that Pitt was playing without two key players. Starting center Dante Taylor was out with migranes and starting forward, Lamar Patterson, missed the game as part of a two-game suspension for disciplinary reasons. It wasn’t immediately clear what he did wrong. But the two players starting in their place filled in admirably.
Freshman Khem Birch started in place of Taylor and easily turned in his best game of his career with 15 points, ten rebounds, three blocks, and a steal in 28 minutes of action. J.J. Moore, who was believed to be the starter heading into the season, turned in his second consecutive quality game, playing for Patterson. He had 12 points and six rebounds.
Getting back to Birch a bit, he was seen as Pitt’s best recruit in a while – perhaps in the history of the program. We’re starting to see glimpses of stardom from him, and I expect him to get more time going forward. With Taylor’s play being a bit up and down, Birch could even take over as the starter at some point.
For Penn, Zack Rosen was as advertised, scoring 22 points in defeat. But it wasn’t nearly enough as the Quakers shot only 40% from the field to Pitt’s 58%.