PITTSBURGH (AP) -- With half of Pittsburgh's inside game shut down, Chris Taft decided to take matters into his own hands.
Taft, a sophomore center, scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help the No. 10 Panthers remain undefeated with a 73-42 victory over Coppin State on Saturday night.Carl Krauser added 17 points for the Panthers, who are off to an 8-0 start for the third year in a row. Pittsburgh has won 23 consecutive non-conference games.Taft's performance came on a night when forward Chevon Troutman, Pitt's leading scorer, was held to a season-low four points."I told myself that I wanted to be more aggressive, hustle and do what I've got to do," Taft said. "When Chevy wasn't being his old self, that pushed me to do even more."Taft was 5-of-9 from the floor and 8-of-11 from the foul line. His double-double was his second in three games and the eighth of his career."It's good to hear a big guy like Chris challenge himself like that," Krauser said. "He's got unbelievable talent."Pitt had one of its best defensive games of the year, holding Coppin State to 30.6 percent shooting. Robert Pressey scored 12 points and Nicholas King had 10 for Coppin State (2-7), which is 0-14 all-time against Big East teams.The Panthers dominated inside, outscoring the Eagles 30-8 in the paint.Pitt never trailed in the game and shot 56.5 percent in the first half while building a 36-16 lead.Taft scored 11 points in the first half, including a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Krauser that gave the Panthers a 25-12 advantage."Chris did a great job off the boards," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We wanted to get the ball inside to start the game and I think we did that."Pitt played without forward Mark McCarroll, who had a concussion Dec. 11 in the Panthers' 84-71 win at Penn State. Pitt also played the second half without guard Antonio Graves, who was coming off a career-high 18 points against Penn State. Graves sprained his left ankle late in the first half and had to be helped off the court.The injuries enabled Dixon to empty his bench. He used 13 players, and 11 played at least five minutes."It gives different guys an opportunity to play," Krauser said. "It's a good opportunity for them to see what they can do when the bright lights are on."Coppin State, which lost to a ranked team for the third time this season, tried to slow the pace of the game, but the strategy backfired.The Eagles had three shot-clock violations in their first five trips down the floor and didn't score their first points until 5:04 elapsed in the half."I told my team before the game that we had to rebound, prevent turnovers and set the tempo. I don't think we achieved any of our goals," Coppin State coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell said. "Our guys have to be a little more disciplined."