PITTSBURGH - The UC San Diego men's basketball team put up a solid fight, but fell by a score of 72-59 against NCAA Division I Pitt in an exhibition game Friday at Petersen Events Center. The Tritons trailed by just two points with four minutes left, but the Panthers turned it on late in front of 5,813 fans.
Senior guard James McCann (Carlsbad/La Costa Canyon HS) and senior forward MacKenzie McCullough led UCSD with 13 points apiece. McCann also pulled down five rebounds and dished out five assists. Guard Aleks Lipovic, who redshirted as a freshman last season, totaled nine points, while sophomore forward Drew Dyer had eight points and a team-high seven boards. True freshman Adam Klie chipped in with eight points as well.
For Pitt, Talib Zanna recorded a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, both game-highs. Lamar Patterson finished with 16 points, while James Robinson had 10 points and six assists.
UCSD made 20 of 48 shots, 42 percent, while Pitt hit 23 of 51, 45 percent. The Tritons made 10 three-point shots. The Panthers went to the free-throw line 32 times (20-for-32), while the Tritons made 11 trips (9-for-11).
UCSD turned the ball over 15 times. Ten of those came in the first half, leading to 10 points for the Panthers.
Pitt out-scored UC San Diego 30-12 in the paint.
It was the debut for UCSD head coach Eric Olen, who had been an assistant coach with the Tritons for the past nine seasons.
"I was really pleased with our effort, I thought our guys really fought and battled all night," said Olen. "That's really a good team we played against. We were fortunate to get the ball to go in the basket a little bit and hang around for a little while."
Behind by as many as 13 points in the second half, its largest deficit of the night, UCSD battled back. With 7:46 remaining in the game, Dyer drilled a three-point shot to even the score at 49-49, the first and only tie of the contest.
The Panthers scored the next six points, but a trey by Lipovic and a pair of free throws by McCann brought the Tritons right back again, down by one at 55-54.
With the score 58-56 in favor of Pitt with 4:26 left, the Panthers began to dominate. They ran off 11 consecutive points, five of those coming from the free-throw line, to lead by a score of 69-56 at 1:04.
The Tritons' final three points of the night came from Klie. With 35 seconds remaining, the Anchorage, Alaska, native hit a jumper and was fouled in the process. He put down the free throw to make it 69-59, Pittsburgh. Aron Nwankwo made a three-pointer with 14 ticks left to account for the final score.
UCSD got out to a quick 3-0 lead when Dyer drained a three-pointer from the corner just 47 seconds into the game. Pitt got on the board with a free throw and then took the lead for the rest of the half when Durand Johnson's three at 17:18 made the score 4-3 in favor of the Panthers.
A jumper by James Robinson at 8:25 put the Panthers up by seven at 18-11 before the Tritons, namely Hunter Walker, went on a six-point run to climb back within a point. Walker was fouled on a made layup and converted the three-point play. Just over 30 seconds later, he hit a three-pointer, cutting Pitt's advantage to 18-17 at the 6:19 mark.
A seven-point string by the Panthers had them up, 25-17, with 3:57 left in the opening stanza, but the Tritons weren't done. McCullough took over, scoring the game's next seven points on two jumpers and a three-ball, once again getting UCSD within a point at 25-24 with just over two minutes left in the half.
Another seven-point run, this one going to Pitt, closed out the first half and had the Panthers heading to the locker room with a 32-24 lead.
Pitt, new this season to the 15-team Atlantic Coast Conference, was picked to finish sixth in the league's presesason poll. Duke topped the poll and was followed by Syracuse and North Carolina. Virginia and Notre Dame rounded out the ACC's top five.
"For us, it's really encouraging and it gives our guys some confidence and something to build on moving forward," said Olen.
UCSD plays a second and final exhibition game at Grand Canyon on Friday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. It is GCU's first year as a member of NCAA Division I.