PITTSBURGH (AP)—No rest for the weary and, for North Florida’s overmatched Ospreys, no chance against a team as good and as deep as No. 5 Pittsburgh.
Brad Wanamaker scored 17 points and the Panthers pulled away from fatigued North Florida with a 26-6 run in the first half, going on to a 95-49 victory Saturday that was their 50th straight at home against a non-conference opponent.
J.J. Moore, a freshman forward seeing his most extensive playing time this season, had 19 points and eight rebounds. Moore, who didn’t play in Pitt’s opener, scored all but three of his points after Pitt opened a 30-point lead early in the second half.
“We showed we’re a deep team,” Wanamaker said. “We know everybody on this team can score.”
Despite poor shooting games from guard Ashton Gibbs and forward Gilbert Brown, the Panthers (3-0) had no problem winning their third game in six days— partly because the worn-out Ospreys (0-2) were losing their second game in 19 hours.
North Florida was competitive during a 75-55 loss at Florida State that didn’t start until 9 p.m. EST Friday, trailing 50-45 midway through the second half.
The ensuing, 900-mile, early morning trip on private jets and the quick turnaround before playing a 4 p.m. EST game against a Top 5 team proved to be too challenging for the Ospreys, who went from being down 10-6 to trailing 36-12 in slightly less than 10 minutes.
“There’s no excuses, we weren’t very good,” said North Florida coach Matt Driscoll, a former Pittsburgh-area high school player. “But that’s probably the two fastest regular season, non-tournament games played in history.”
Pitt didn’t want to move the game to Sunday because the Steelers are playing the New England Patriots at home.
After Gibbs’ 3-pointer made it 51-21 in the opening minute of the second half, coach Jamie Dixon used his bench extensively in the Panthers’ final tuneup before they play Maryland and either Texas or No. 13 Illinois in the 2K Sports Classic in Madison Square Garden on Thursday and Friday.
“We stayed with it even when we had a good lead,” Dixon said.
Eleven Pitt players scored, with redshirt freshman Talib Zanna getting 13 points and nine rebounds while starting for the injured Nasir Robinson. Gibbs, averaging 23 points, finished with 12 on 4-of-13 shooting. Brown missed 11 of 13 shots while scoring four points.
Driscoll has watched Pitt teams for decades, and he likes how Dixon—a coach known for his disciplined, defensively tough teams—is opening up the offense.
“They’re playing fast and scoring a lot more points, and that takes a lot of pressure off your defense,” Driscoll said. “He’s letting guys go and letting them score.”
That includes Moore, who didn’t play during an 83-75 victory Monday over Rhode Island. Dixon told him to be ready for the next game, and the 6-foot-6 Moore has since scored 28 points in two games.
“I just wanted to show him I can play, and play hard,” Moore said.
With Dante Taylor getting 11 rebounds, Pitt outrebounded North Florida 59-28 and now has a 149-85 edge through three games.
Wanamaker, who came in averaging 24 points, helped Pitt pull away by converting a three-point play that made it 15-6 with 12:32 left in the first half. Backup guard Travon Woodall hit two 3-pointers and a driving layup soon after, and Wanamaker made two free throws that made it 29-10. Woodall scored 10 points.
Pitt won its 99th in its last 100 home games against non-conference opponents. The only loss was to Bucknell, 69-66, on Jan. 2, 2005, when Pitt— which went on to finish 20-9—was ranked No. 10.
Andres Diaz led North Florida with 14 points. Parker Smith, a backup guard who had 16 at Florida State, drew three fouls in a scoreless first half before finishing with five points.
North Florida has lost all five of its games to ranked Division I opponents, by an average margin of 41 points.
Pitt, which beat Illinois-Chicago 97-54 on Wednesday, hadn’t won consecutive games by 40-point margins since 2002.