By BILL O’REAR
Tribune-Herald sports editor
The University of Pittsburgh powered inside for 48 points on its way to a convincing 77-45 win over the University of Hawaii at Hilo on Friday night.
The NCAA men’s basketball exhibition contest was played at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh. It was the season-opener for the NCAA Division II Vulcans against a national powerhouse from the Big East Conference.
The D-I Panthers, under head coach Jamie Dixon, rolled to a 39-21 lead at the intermission before 6,115 fans. Then in the second half, the hosts outscored the smaller Vulcans 38-24 as both teams substituted freely in the game — Dixon played 11 players anywhere from 10 to 23 minutes and every one scored at least a point.
Talib Zanna, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound junior forward, and reserve J.J. Moore each scored 13 points to lead Pitt, which entered the non-counting contest with a 2-0 record. Shooting guard James Robinson had nine points, point guard Tray Woodall six points and eight assists, and 7-foot, 250-pound center Steven Adams added six points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“We got off to a really bad start and their length and strength gave us all kinds of problems,” UHH head coach Jeff Law said. “We only scored four points in the first 12 minutes and were down 22-4. But we settled down and then scored 17 points in the final eight minutes. We had a chance to cut it to 16 but missed a layup just before the halftime buzzer.”
In the second half, Law said the Panthers “kept coming in droves, with guys coming in off the bench bigger and stronger than some of the starters.”
“We couldn’t do much against their size and length, but I was happy that we got 31 rebounds against them,” the UHH coach said. “We’re not going to face anyone that big or athletic the rest of this year. We got outrebounded 45-31, but I’m pleased with our effort.”
Senior guard Mychael Hearn led the Vulcans with five rebounds.
Junior Lucas Swanson, a 6-foot-2 shooting guard, led UHH in scoring with 10 points. He hit 4 of 10 field goals, including two 3-pointers. Juniors Michael Melonas and Paul Batausa each had eight points and junior guard Derek Owens added seven points and a steal. Senior point guard CJ Brown only scored one point but he handed out a team-high five assists to go with four rebounds in a team-high 29 minutes.
“CJ had a good floor game for us,” Law said. “Paul (Batausa) played very, very well and Lucas (Swanson) played well.
“We just didn’t shoot the ball well and in the end we had tired legs. But the guys kept playing hard, and I’m sure they learned something from this game and took it with a grain of salt.”
Law played all 10 men who he took on the road trip, and eight scored against the aggressive Panthers.
“The experience was worth it,” Law said. “A slow start might have been due to nerves, but once the guys came out of the locker room, the crowd got all over them. Then we got down early and had a lot of turnovers, but the guys didn’t give up and kept battling.
“It was a good effort, something they can definitely learn from.”
The Panthers shot 45 percent (30 of 67) from the field, 29 percent (4 of 14) on 3-pointers and 59 percent (13 of 22) from the free-throw line. UHH hit 31 percent (15 of 49) from the floor, 27 percent (6 of 22) on tryes and 75 percent (9 of 12) from the line.
Pitt also had 17 assists, eight turnovers, eight blocked shots and 12 steals compared to the Vuls’ 8, 24, 1 and 2, respectively.
The Vulcans play at Duquesne University, another NCAA D-I team, at 2 p.m. Sunday to conclude their two-game trip to Pittsburgh. Following Sunday’s exhibition, UHH flies to Oregon to play Western Oregon on Nov. 9 and St. Martin’s on Nov. 10 to wrap up the long four-game road swing.
UHH 21 24 — 45
PITT 39 38 — 77