As the number one overall seed in the tournament, Florida had high expectations and if they play like they played on Thursday in the next round they will find themselves out of the dance. They allowed an Albany team of inferior athletic ability to hang around for the entire game. They used their size advantage to beat Albany by 26 points in the paint and they blocked more layups that Albany made throughout the game. Usually 8 vs. 9 matchups are close game because generally speaking the teams are evenly matched. Well anyone who watched Pitt play Colorado on Thursday saw what looked like a David and Goliath matchup as Pitt ran through the Buffalos 77-48. The 77 points was unusually high for the Panthers who scored a season high 24 points off turnovers.
The Panthers got off to a 30-7 lead and never really looked back. It was a shocking start and eventual conclusion to the game that was seen by many as a very comparable matchup. The forced Colorado into 17 turnovers while only committing 3 of their own. They had 13 assists on 18 first half baskets and they help Colorado to 20% shooting. In comparison the Buffaloes had zero assists and 10 turnovers in the first half. Pitt really has the look of a team that is starting to peak at the right time. No starter played more than 30 minutes and Talib Zanna led the team with 18 points and 6 rebounds. Cameron Wright and Lamar Patterson were the other double figure scorers with 11 and 10 respectively.
Florida never seemed to get out of quicksand on Thursday as they held a slim 6-point halftime lead and never really pulled away in their 67-55 victory. If it wasn’t for a 16-6 run late in the game we could have potentially witnessed the biggest upset in NCAA history. None of the starters played particulary well however luckily sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith came off the bench to score 16 big points. Considering he had 3 points combined in his last 2 games it was an unexpected boost. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that without his efforts Florida would have lost the game. Patrick Young had a double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Casey Prather had a solid game with 16 points. Guard Scottie Willbekin rounded out the double figure scorers with 10.
The physical defensive style of the Panthers is a rough matchup for the Gators in round three. They will need to find a better offensive flow than they had throughout the Albany game. It will be tough for Young to dominate against a physical front line of Pitt. It may come down to guard play. If the Florida guards can get penetration and make the outside shots then they will have an easy win. But if Pitt can disrupt the offensive flow and make it a game late they will have the experience and momentum edge. It should be a great game.
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