PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Never has a Pitt opponent been more
appreciative of a 36-point loss.
Chevon Troutman and Chris Taft dominated smaller Loyola, Md.,
inside at both ends of the floor and Pittsburgh (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today; No. 16 AP) cruised to
its third consecutive victory against weak opposition, winning
93-57 Saturday night.
The 6-foot-10 Taft and the 6-7 Troutman were in control from the
start against Loyola (0-3), which hasn't had a winning season since
going to the NCAA Tournament in 1994 under current Wake Forest
coach Skip Prosser.
The Panthers (3-0) sped to a 7-0 lead as Troutman fed Taft for a
dunk that left the backboard shaking for 10 seconds, and they
quickly built leads of 13-2, 17-5, 28-11 and 39-13.
Both of Pitt coach Jamie Dixon's big men played only
sporadically, but Troutman still finished with 17 points and six
rebounds in 15 minutes and Taft had 12 points and eight rebounds in
Antonio Graves, sidelined for Pitt's opener with a sore ankle,
added 12 points and Ronald Ramon and Yuri Demetris scored 10 each.
Freddie Stanback, Shane James and Charlie Bell had 12 each for the
Greyhounds, who have only one starter taller than 6-5.
"Chevon Troutman is a great player and a mismatch problem,"
first year Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos said. "Taft is a great
player, a great passer and knows the game of basketball from being
a New York City kid and going to watch the Knicks all the time."
Loyola, a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference member, is winless
so far under Patsos, a former Maryland assistant who repeatedly
thanked Dixon for the game.
"A lot of people won't even book us for a money game because
we're so low in the RPI," Patsos said. "So this was a great
opportunity for our kids and an honor to play."
The Panthers lightened their early season schedule four years
ago to accelerate former coach Ben Howland's rebuilding effort and
have stayed with that philosophy under Dixon, whose first Pitt team
started 18-0 last season.
Pittsburgh, 91-16 over the last four seasons, has beaten Howard,
Robert Morris and Loyola by an average of 32 points. The Panthers
meet only one ranked team, No. 25 Memphis on Dec. 7 in Madison
Square Garden, before Big East play starts in early January.
Pitt, second only to Air Force in Division I scoring defense
last season, has held all three opponents below 60 points. Loyola
shot 31.7 percent, making just eight of 30 first-half shots.
One difference from last season is a more uptempo offense, a
byproduct of Pitt not breaking the 60-point mark in any of its
three NCAA Tournament games. The Panthers have scored at least 81
points in all three games, though they may find it difficult to
maintain that pace once the opposition toughens.
Dixon is giving his guards more freedom to release early from
the defensive end, confident Taft or Troutman will get the rebound
and create a fast break.
"He's trusting us to make the right decisions," said point
guard Carl Krauser, who had nine assists and eight points. "Last
year I kind of had to hold back and prove I could play point guard
for Pitt. Now I've got my own identity and can run the show."
Dixon played all but two of his 13 players at least 4 minutes
each in the first half.
"We have a lot of guys who need minutes and we got them some
minutes," Dixon said. "We want to be perfect for 40 minutes and
that's tough to do, but that's what we strive for."