PITTSBURGH – Over the past couple of weeks, Pittsburgh center Steve Adams has struggled to find his place on the court.
Saturday night was a different story. The 7-0 center showed no sign of struggle and came to life in a crushing, 89-40 win against Bethune-Cookman.
The freshman scored a career high 16 points and 10 rebounds, the first double-double of his young career.
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said he was proud of Adams and is seeing improvement in him each week. He also said he was proud of his team in general for getting the ball to Adams inside the paint.
The Panthers (10-1) hit double-digits in the win column with ease, using strong shot selection to hit 67.3 percent (37 of 55) from the floor with points from 10 players.
Dixon does not discount that a big part of his team’s success stems from his players’ unselfish efforts, evidenced Saturday by Pitt’s 28 assists.
“It’s something that’s rare and has come to be expected here,” he said. “But it shouldn’t be. We always do this and have unselfish play. It’s something that we’ve consistently done and I think it says a lot about the kids on our team.”
Dante Taylor added six points and 11 rebounds for the Panthers, while J.J. Moore rebounded from a rough stretch of games to score 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting with four rebounds.
“I had a couple of bad games but my teammates told me to keep shooting,” Moore said. “I just stuck with what they told me to do, and I kept going.”
Bethune-Cookman (4-9), on the other hand, could not get anything going.
For a fleeting moment it looked like they could hang with Pitt in the first half, pulling within four of the Panthers at 25-21 with 7:07 left in the first half.
But that small margin lasted only momentarily. Pitt kicked it into high gear, using an up-tempo game to spark a 20-5 run that led to a 44-24 lead at halftime and ultimately a second-half beating.
Despite the huge win, Dixon says the Panthers still have more work to be done, especially with only two nonconference games left before Big East play starts.
He said moving forward, the emphasis will be on defense.
The Panthers turned the ball over nine times total against Bethune-Cookman, with seven of those turnovers coming in the first half. Dixon hopes to curb that number as low as possible.
He said that although the team is not defensively where it needs to be, their ball protection is improving.
“The defense got better as the game went on,” he said. “We’re still a work in progress in that regard. But we’re getting better.”
Bethune-Cookman coach Clifford Reed Jr. said his team had some work of its own to do. The Wildcats had a 30.2 field-goal percentage (13 of 43) and a total of only 11 rebounds the entire game.
Although the numbers were low, Reed says the stats were not what bothered him. He was most disappointed about his team’s lack of effort.
“You can’t coach that,” he said. “We didn’t show up, and I’m disappointed in that.”
But Reed said the Wildcats will regroup and learn from the loss.
“We’ll try to take away how tough they (Panthers) play and how hard they play,” he said. “That’s a trademark of Dixon’s.”