Pittsburgh Panthers’ freshman forward Khem Birch picked up the first double-double of his career (15 points, 10 rebounds) to lead the Panthers to a 78-58 victory over Pennsylvania at the Palestra in Philadelphia, Pa.
The Panthers outscored the Quakers 43-29 in the second half to grab their fourth victory of the season.
It was a solid all-around performance on both sides of the court, but the Panthers returned to their stingy defense by forcing Penn to shoot 40 percent from the floor and 38 percent from beyond the arc. Birch played an important role in not only blocking shots but altering them as well. He finished with three blocked shots.
Anytime you implement a true shot blocker that can protect the rim it will always garner the attention of the offense. They realize that there is an opportunity for a rejection every time they take it to the hole.
This is something that cannot be said about Dante Taylor, the former McDonald’s All-American that missed the game on Friday night because of migraines. Taylor would rather take a charge instead of using his 6’9” 240 pound frame.
Birch is much more active on both sides of the floor than Taylor, and he proved that against Penn.
Anytime you have a player with as much value as Birch carries minutes need to be provided on a consistent basis. Head coach Jamie Dixon rarely looked the freshman’s way when he was looking for bench players, often overlooking the touted freshman. He played 28 minutes on Friday night, 11 less than his total (39) all season.
Now that he played extremely well expect his minutes to be much improved.
Four panthers scored in double digits including Ashton Gibbs and his team-high 16 points. Nasir Robinson grabbed 15 and J.J. Moore chipped in with 12.
After a slow start Pitt got it going on both sides of the floor. They used 59 percent shooting and solid team defense to grab their first road victory of the season.
Pitt will be back in action on Sunday at 5 p.m. against Robert Morris.