7:00 PM ET, November 27, 2004
Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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 21 minutes. 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."