STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -- A couple of years ago, Pittsburgh (No. 4 ESPN/USA Today, No. 5 AP)
would have been in big trouble if star Brandin Knight was hurt and
playing at less than peak level. Now it's only a minor
Donatas Zavackas hit three unguarded 3-pointers early in the
second half to give Pittsburgh a comfortable lead, and the No. 5
Panthers extended Penn State's worst start in 71 years with an
82-60 victory Saturday.
Zavackas scored 20 points, becoming the first Pittsburgh player
to reach that mark this season. Julius Page added 14 as the
Panthers (5-0) cruised to their fifth consecutive easy victory.
"He knows where to go to get open shots,'' Page said of
Zavackas, who was 4-of-4 on 3-pointers and 6-of-7 overall. "If you
leave him open and he starts making them, he'll make everything. It
was his time to pick us up.''
What Penn State coach Jerry Dunn couldn't figure out was how the
6-foot-8 Zavackas kept getting open.
"There were times we didn't even have a hand up to bother
him,'' Dunn said. "A couple of guys didn't respect his shot and
that really hurt us. He's an X factor on that team, with guys like
Page and (Jaron) Brown and Knight. You're so concerned about those
guys, he goes unnoticed some times.''
Penn State, which made the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament
only two seasons ago, has been outscored by 102 points in starting
0-5 for the first time since 1931. The Nittany Lions have lost by
20 or more points in three of their losses. Only once have they
kept the margin to single digits: a 79-70 loss to Clemson.
Pittsburgh, which has beaten Penn State by a combined 52 points
the last two seasons, quickly opened up a 12-5 lead and never was
Pitt went on a 9-2 run to go up 38-27 at halftime and was so in
control that it didn't matter that Knight was scoreless until there
was 14:26 remaining.
Knight, a third-team All-American last season who is struggling
with his shooting and a shoulder injury, was only 3-of-11 -- 0-for-6
from 3-point range -- while scoring seven points. But it hardly
mattered as Pitt had five double-digit scorers, with Jaron Brown,
Toree Morris and reserve Chevon Troutman scoring 10 each. All of
Troutman's points came in the first half.
Knight injured his right shoulder in practice Thursday -- an
injury not disclosed until Saturday -- but still played 30 minutes.
An MRI didn't reveal any serious damage, but coach Ben Howland said
the shoulder was very sore.
"He gutted it out,'' Howland said. "But he's a tough kid, a
former (high school) football player.''
Knight gets a week to rest as Pitt doesn't play again until Dec.
14 against Southeastern Louisiana. Its first challenging game at
home is expected four days later against Ohio State.
Zavackas, left open frequently early in the second half, scored
nine of Pitt's first 15 points after halftime to push the lead to
53-36. Later, an 11-0 run made it 71-47.
"I took advantage of the opportunities and made them,''
Zavackas said. Then, joking about often being overlooked on a team
that has won 34 of its last 40 games, he said, "I like to think
I'm a star -- maybe.''
Penn State made him one for a day. DeForrest Riley said, "With
Page and Knight, so you're so focused on them, he sneaks in there
and starts hitting 3s. But we knew he could shoot it. We watched
film on them and we watched him shoot it.''
Pittsburgh was dominant inside in its first road game of the
season, outrebounding Penn State 32-23, and was effective
offensively even while missing shots. Of the Panthers' 15 baskets
in the first half, 11 came on putbacks or layups. Pitt shot 52
Sharif Chambliss led Penn State with 16 points, with Riley
scoring 14 and Jan Jagla 12. The Lions turned it over 20 times, 13
in the second half.