PITTSBURGH (AP)—Pitt is staying at home and rolling up one easy victory after another against non-threatening opposition, just as the Panthers do every autumn under coach Jamie Dixon.
Only this season is different: This time, Pitt is winning in a much different way than in the past and, beginning next week, the opposition gets a lot stronger.
Ronald Ramon made all five of his 3-point attempts to score 15 points, and unbeaten Pittsburgh put away Boston University quickly with a 20-3 run in the first half of an 80-53 victory Tuesday night.
The 14th-ranked Panthers (6-0), again showing off their new, faster-paced offense, also got 14 points from leading scorer Sam Young, 11 points and eight assists from point guard Levance Fields and 11 points from Mike Cook.
“It felt good hitting all of my 3s,” said Ramon, who helped Pitt shoot 45.5 percent (10-of-22) from 3-point range. “I put a lot of time in to get my shot back, and they (his teammates) told me to still keep shooting 3s.”
Ramon, Pitt’s top 3-point shooter last season, has been in a shooting slump and was 7-of-24 (29.2 percent) on 3-pointers going into the game. Last season, he was 74-of-164 (45.1 percent).
“We have a lot of confidence in him when he’s shooting the ball,” Fields said. “We want him shooting 3s.”
Fields hit a 3-pointer and Ramon made two in a row beyond the arc to put Pitt up 10-4, before Fields made a long jumper that was inches short of another 3. Keith Benjamin’s 3-pointer and Tyrell Biggs’ dunk made it 21-5, and Dixon emptied his bench after that.
“It was tough to stay focused all the way through,” Dixon said. “It’s fortunate we got this team when they were undermanned.”
Pitt’s early run was similar to that of a 22-0 spurt early in a 92-45 rout of Buffalo on Friday. The Panthers’ average winning margin against mostly lightweight competition is 31 points.
“It’s not easy going against lesser competition, so we need to play together,” Fields said. “We could have lost two or three of these games if we didn’t stay sharp.”
That might be stretching the imagination, because only Saint Louis has lost to Pitt by fewer than 25 points. Pitt has been 6-0 in each of Dixon’s five seasons and has a chance to open at least 9-0 for the sixth season in a row.
With 7-footer Aaron Gray and 6-10 Levon Kendall gone after graduating, the Panthers are faster and quicker and are more suited to playing an up-and-down game instead of the half-court offense they often used in the past.
But the name-the-score games should end soon. The Panthers take on unbeaten city rival Duquesne (5-0) next week, then play Washington on the road, Duke at Madison Square Garden and Oklahoma State at home during a more demanding December schedule than usual. They also travel to Dayton late in the month.
“We know we still have a lot to improve on,” Dixon said.
Boston University (1-5) is playing short-handed without leading scorer Corey Lowe (personal reasons) and point guard Tyler Morris (foot injury) and it showed during a two-game road trip in which it was outscored by a combined 50 points against Marshall and Pitt. The Terriers lost to Marshall 70-47 on Sunday.
“When you schedule a game like Pitt, you have to have what you think you’re going to have,” BU coach Dennis Wolff said. “I would have liked to have had our top two scorers.”
The Terriers, picked by America East coaches to win the league, have dropped five in a row and haven’t beaten a ranked opponent since a 1959 NCAA tournament upset of Navy. Boston U. lost the Eastern Regional finals to Jerry West-led West Virginia that season.
The Terriers never threatened to end that Top 25 streak against Pitt despite Carlos Strong’s game-high 24 points. They couldn’t handle Pitt’s improved outside shooting or its more athletic frontcourt.
“I think they were taking it easy on us, substituting liberally,” Wolff said. “I think we played hard against one of the best teams in the country. I’m not an expert on the Big East, but I think they’re going to win a lot of games.”
Fittingly enough, the Panthers did all this 3-point shooting with Steelers kicker Jeff Reed sitting courtside. The night before, his last-minute field goal provided the only scoring in the Steelers’ 3-0 victory over Miami in a waterlogged game at Heinz Field.