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January 6, 2014

Panthers flatten Terps in Pittsburgh

This season may be Pittsburgh's first in a new conference, but the ACC version of the Panthers look a lot like the Big East version. Through 14 games, Pitt ranked 10th in the nation in scoring defense and 11th in defensive efficiency. At the Petersen Events Center against Maryland on Monday night, they also proved they can make it rain.

The Panthers (14-1, 2-0) made 6 of 10 attempts from three-point range and 23 of 45 from everywhere else en route to a 79-59 win over the Terps, Pitt's 14th in their first 15 games and their second in a row to open their first season of ACC play.

Pittsburgh's shooters, namely Lamar Patterson (19 points) and Durand Johnson (17 off the bench), had open looks all night and when they didn't, their shots fell anyway. The Panthers shot 52.7 percent on the night against a Maryland team that was helpless to stop them.

The Terps have had defensive issues all season but after a deepening rotation allowed them to hold their last three opponents to under 40 percent shooting, head coach Mark Turgeon hoped he was on his way to figuring it out. Still, Maryland ranked 211th in the nation in defending the three heading into Monday night, surrendering a robust 34.9 percent. Those numbers did nothing but get worse against the Panthers.

The lone bright spot for Maryland was sophomore Seth Allen, who scored a season-high 18 points off the bench in his fourth game back from injury. Allen drained 4 of 7 from beyond the arc and, outside of a nice first half from Evan Smotrycz, seemed like the only Terp that came to play in front of a rowdy sold out crowd.

Maryland's offense didn't fare much better than their defense against a Pitt team that defends as well as any team in the country. The Terps shot 35.7 percent from the field and got next to nothing from anyone not named Allen or Smotrycz. They jacked up 24 threes, making only four.

Leading scorers Dez Wells and Jake Layman combined for 8 points on 3 of 13 shooting. Prior to Monday, Wells had notched double figures in 11 straight contests. Smotrycz netted 14, but the others forwards for Maryland were invisible on the offensive end.

The Terps hung tough with Pitt in the first half until about the six-minute mark, when the Panthers turned the heat up on defense and held Maryland scoreless for nearly four full minutes. The Panthers closed the half on an 11-2 run which gave them a six-point halftime lead.

Maryland was able to outrebound Pitt through 20 minutes 19-13, but allowed the Panthers to make half their first half shots and struggled to crack Jamie Dixon's 2-3 zone on the other end. Smotrycz hit all three of his attempts from downtown, but the Terps managed only two first half free throw attempts and turned the ball over seven times.

Things didn't improve in the second half, as Pittsburgh kept their foot on the gas and inflated the lead to double digits six minutes out of the locker room. The Panthers pushed it to 20 in the game's final minutes, as the Terps fell to 2-1 through three games in their final season in the ACC.

Turgeon's bunch has five days off to get things right following the loss, as they travel to Tallahassee to take on Florida State on Sunday night.

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