Different names, same results. The Panthers improved to 5-1 in another good, but not scintillating victory, but this time there were some different young players that contributed. Leading the way was sophomore Talib Zanna with 10 points and 15 rebounds. Former Pitt assistant Tom Herrion told me not long ago that Zanna was the most talented big guy the Panthers had (though of course he had not coached Khem Birch) and while the 6'9" Zanna hasn't consistently shown that talent yet, he showed what he could do tonight.
Another youngster, Khem Birch, is reaching stardom even faster. With Dante Taylor out, the freshman started his second game in a row and responded with 8 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocks in a season high 29 minutes. In his two starts, Birch is averaging 11.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, and 4.5 bpg. Wow.
Three more youngsters- J.J. Moore, Cameron Wright, and John Johnson also chipped in impressively. Moore had 8 points and two threes. He's averaged 9.7 ppg in his last three. Wright, who frankly has not impressed me much, had 13 points and 2 steals in just 19 minutes. Johnson added 6 points on two threes in 12 minutes.
Of the three veterans Ashton Gibbs had a game high 21 points but once again did not shoot well. Travon Woodall had 12 points and 10 assists but also shot poorly. Combined the two shot 32% from the field and 25% from three. Nasir Robinson was virtually nonexistent with 3 points in 27 minutes. He attempted only one shot all night and missed three of four field goals.
It's no secret that the high end talent on this team is with the underclassmen. The possible greatness for this program could come with the likes of Birch, Moore, Zanna, and soon Steven Adams and James Robinson. Could this be the game that there is a changing of the guard? Don't get me wrong. Gibbs will shoot well again and Robinson will never stop fighting for points. But seeing Birch and Moore playing so well for the past few games, and Zanna playing great tonight, are very good signs for the future.