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Mountaineers Find Pitt Too Steep A Challenge

Mount St. Mary's came out of the gate strong in their season opener, but eventually the gap between the two sides was too great to cross and the end result was about what was expected.

Charles LeClaire USPRESSWIRE

It started off strong. Mount St. Mary's was taking what was there for them, and Pittsburgh was giving them three-point shots. At the media timeout with 7:32 remaining in the first half, they trailed the Panthers 30-23 and had already nailed seven of their nine three-point attempts - with very few easy shots mixed in.

Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for the Mountaineers, as Pitt gradually began to pull away on the strength of the inside play of Talib Zanna (20 points on 10-of-12 shooting) and the weakness of a Mountaineers team that went 1-for-13 from the field the remainder of the first half.

When asked about the changes he made during that timeout, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said there was no specific thing he talked to his team about

"I don't think we really did anything different," Dixon said. "We just did better what we had come into the game planning to do. We had to defend ball screens better and had a flare we didn't guard the way we were supposed to."

That led to a 15 point halftime lead for the Panthers at 42-27 that only grew bigger as the Mount opened the second half by missing nine of their first eleven shots.

Despite the lopsided nature of the game, Mountaineers first year head coach Jamion Christian wasn't discouraged.

"I was really proud of how we played for the first eleven minutes," said Christian. "I think that's more indicative of the kind of play you'll see from our team throughout this season."

Junior George Mason transfer Rashad Whack ("wok"), in what would be a microcosm of the night for Mount St. Mary's, opened the game making four of his first six shots, including three of four from downtown - and then never made another shot the rest of the night.

Even so, his speed as well as his teammates impressed even Dixon, who gave them great praise for how they opened the game.

"I think they're going to surprise a lot of teams in their conference," Dixonsaid. "I think we weren't ready for their quickness. Give them credit: they made a number of tough shots, and that's really hard to keep doing for forty minutes. I've told my guys that you can't give them an open look (from three) because then that next one where you do guard them looks like an easier shot. You can't give them that rhythm."

Coach Chrtistian also pointed to Pittsburgh's significant size advantage as one of the biggest barriers of the evening.

"That's the nature of Pitt's system," Christian said, "trying to funnel you inside to play over top of those big guys down low. That happens against a team like Pitt: you see a window and go to drive the lane, and it turns out that lane isn't there, it's just smoke and mirrors, and it turns out it's really the Boogeyman waiting there for you."

Mount St. Mary's will next head back home to face Hartford on Tuesday.