COLLEGE PARK, Md. – There will be times this season when Pittsburgh will win on the strength of its outside shooting or its suffocating defense.
Neither of those qualities was required against Maryland on Saturday night. Instead, the 20th-ranked Panthers relied on their inside game and the prowess of guard Lamar Patterson to squeeze out an 83-79 victory.
Patterson scored 28 points, and the Panthers used a 37-28 rebounding advantage and 32 free throws to complete their first regular-season sweep as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I think this team can win in a variety of ways. We do everything well,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “We rebound well, we shoot it well. Today wasn’t going to be a 3-point shooting game. I didn’t want to get into that. We attacked the basket well and that’s what we wanted to do.”
Pittsburgh (18-2, 6-1) never trailed in the second half against the struggling Terrapins, who lost by 20 to the Panthers on Jan. 6. Although this game was significantly closer than the first one, Maryland (11-9, 3-4) simply couldn’t contain Patterson, a 6-foot-5 senior who fell just short of matching his career high of 30 points.
“Lamar was scoring within the offense,” Pitt guard Cameron Wright said. “It’s not like he was trying to do too much. He’s playing out of his mind right now. He was able to hold us together.”
Patterson went 8 for 14 from floor and made 12 of 14 free throws. He also had seven rebounds and seven assists.
Talib Zanna scored 16 for the Panthers and James Robinson had 13. Pittsburgh made only one of a season low-tying seven shots from beyond the arc.
“The way the game was going to be was physical, so you didn’t want to settle for jump shots,” Dixon said.
Pittsburgh next faces Duke at home on Monday night. Dixon is 17-0 against members of the ACC that do not include Syracuse and Notre Dame, who joined the conference this season with Pittsburgh after a lengthy stay in the Big East.
Dez Wells scored 19, Jake Layman had 18 and Nick Faust added 13 for the Terrapins, who have lost four of five. Maryland closed to 79-74 with 1:19 to go but couldn’t complete the comeback.
“We gave up too many layups and we fouled too much,” coach Mark Turgeon lamented.
He did, however, give much of the credit to Pittsburgh.
“I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve been an assistant coach and a head coach for about 26 years, and I’m telling you, that’s one of the best teams I’ve ever coached against,” Turgeon said. “How they’re ranked 20th at 18-2 is an absolute joke. I think they’re a Top 5 team in this country, to come into this building and really control the game.”
Pittsburgh led 49-43 before Robinson made a layup and Patterson scored on a drive for a 10-point advantage.
Minutes later, Chris Jones and Robinson sandwiched layups around Maryland’s 15th turnover for a 59-47 lead with 13 minutes left.
A 3-pointer by Faust and a three-point play by Layman cut it to 62-55 with 10:17 to go, but Patterson scored the game’s next three points and got an assist on a basket by Robinson to give the Panthers a 12-point lead with 8:39 remaining.
“He took what was there,” Dixon said of Patterson. “We rode him a little too much in the second half. We have other guys who can make plays.”
In the previous meeting between the teams, Pittsburgh built a six-point cushion at halftime. In this one, the Panthers went 16 for 17 at the free throw line and got 13 points from Patterson in taking a 42-37 lead at the break.
Maryland made its first four shots to go up 9-2, then missed seven of its next eight attempts. It was 13-8 before Patterson scored seven points in a 15-5 run that made it 23-18.
After the Terrapins moved back in front 29-28, Pittsburgh took the lead for good with a 9-0 spree in which four different players contributed layups.
Maryland was called for 14 fouls in the first half, three apiece against starting forward Evan Smotrycz and sixth man Charles Mitchell.