PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Sophomore guard Delbert Love scored a game-high tying 12 points and Kennesaw State made season-high nine three-pointers, but it was not enough to overcome a decided Pittsburgh size advantage as the Panthers held off a determined Owls team, 59-43, Sunday at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.
Freshman forward Nigel Pruitt gave Kennesaw State (1-11) a spark off the bench scoring a career-high tying 10 points and grabbing a career-high five rebounds. Senior forwardAaron Anderson led the Owls with six rebounds and added four points.
"I thought our guys, the second 20 minutes, played with the energy and effort that I wanted them to play with," Kennesaw State head coach Lewis Preston said. "I tip my hat to Pitt. That's the biggest, most physical team that we've played all year. Probably will be the biggest and most physical team that we'll play throughout the course of the season."
Kennesaw State opened the game by hitting three 3-pointers to take a 9-4 lead four minutes into the contest. However, the Owls made only one more shot from behind the arc and finished the half with five field goals in 18 attempts.
Meanwhile, the Panthers (12-1) capitalized on their size advantage, outscoring the Owls 26-7 the remainder of the half, including 18-2 in the paint. Junior forward Talib Zanna was a dominant force inside as he scored 12 points and collected nine rebounds.
"I knew going in that it was going to be a battle on the glass and 19 offensive rebounds, 38 rebounds overall, that's kind of been indicative of Pitt, probably over the course of the last 15 years," Preston said. "Believe me; I had six not-so-great years watching them when I was at Notre Dame as an assistant."
On the strength of 43.8 percent (14-for-32) shooting in the first half, Pitt took a 30-16 halftime lead, holding Kennesaw State to its lowest first-half point total of the season.
The Owls came out in the second half and held the Panthers without a field goal for four minutes and eventually cut the deficit to 10 points on two occasions, the last coming with 10:19 remaining on a three-pointer by Love that made the score 44-34.
However, Kennesaw State was unable to get any closer as Pitt outscored the Owls, 15-9 the rest of the way, eventually building a 20-point lead at 56-36 with 4:41 left.
Kennesaw State held the Panthers to just 8 of 20 shooting (40.0 percent) in the second half, but was 12 of 16 from the free throw line and finished the game 14 of 22 while the Owls were just 2-for-5 from the charity stripe.
Pitt also held a 38-21 advantage on the boards and forced 18 turnovers.
For Love, and freshman guard Myles Hamilton, who scored eight points, had three rebounds and three assists, it was somewhat of a homecoming as they were playing close to their hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, and it front of family.
"I'm really happy for Delbert Love, Myles Hamilton, they had a lot of family and friends here," Preston said.
Kennesaw State will take a week off for Christmas before returning to action on Monday, Dec. 31 when it opens Atlantic Sun Conference play against Florida Gulf Coast at the KSU Convocation Center beginning at 5 p.m.
Kennesaw State University