Pitt has size to compete inside, but it does not have strength right now. If there is one weakness in having Talib Zanna and Steven Adams as the starting frontcourt, it is that both lack the pure physical strength to bang and fight for position inside. Especially when teams are packing it inside whether in a zone or to crash the boards.
A passive defensive scheme still paid off for the Bison, who had a 17-16 edge in rebounding, held Pitt to six field goals on 17 shots from 2-point range and only trailed, 36-28, at the break.
“We wanted to control the paint,” Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry said. “We thought we could control the paint in the zone, make them make eight or nine passes, make them think a little bit, make it look like the paint wasn’t available.”
Howard’s big men, center Alphonso Leary and forward Mike Phillips, upstaged Pitt’s post players early in the game. Each scored 8 points in the opening half to help Howard finish with 24 points in the paint.
Pitt, meanwhile, had just 10 points in the paint.
Especially in the first half. It also helped Howard dominate inside by being extremely physical with Pitt inside. Even with a lot of stuff allowed, four of Howard’s starters had two fouls in the first half.