PITTSBURGH – For nearly the first 12 minutes of St. Francis' (Pa.) game at No. 15 Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, the scoreboard didn't work, simply showing zeroes.
The way those 12 minutes went for the Red Flash, coach Don Friday didn't exactly mind.
"Maybe I would have had a damn stroke, had I seen what the score was in some segments," he said.
Using the tough, physical defense they're known for, the Panthers blew past the Red Flash early and cruised to a 71-47 win at the Petersen Events Center.
Anthony Ervin led St. Francis with 13 points and Stephon Whyatt added 10, but the Red Flash (3-8) shot 35.2 percent from the field and were outrebounded 42-21.
J.J. Moore scored 15 points and Dante Taylor added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Panthers.
Pitt's defense set the tempo from the start. St. Francis missed its first seven shots and the Panthers (11-1) jumped out to a 13-0 lead.
A jumper by Scott Eatherton ended St. Francis' drought with 13:52 left in the first half. The Panthers responded with a 14-2 run that gave them a 27-4 lead with 7:28 to go in the first.
"We had to start this game on our toes and we had to be able to put some points in the bucket early on," Friday said. "For a third straight game, our offense has languished and we have to look and see why that is."
Pitt turned St. Francis' misses into several fast-break scores and the Red Flash couldn't handle the Panthers down low. St. Francis made a small rally near the end of the first half and went into the locker room trailing 39-21, but Pitt again dashed away with a 10-0 run to start the second half.
Eatherton, who entered the game as the nation's leader in field goal percentage at 77.6 percent, was held to just 4-of-12 shooting. He said the Red Flash just couldn't counter Pitt's size advantage.
"They were a lot more physical than us, but one thing I noticed was they were a lot longer than we were," he said. "We tried to box them out and have a body on them, but they'd still get the rebounds because of their length. We just have to get into the weight room and get stronger to surpass that, I guess."
The Red Flash shook off a rough November in which they went 0-6 — with five of the losses by eight points or less — to win three of their first four games this month.
Yet Pitt wasted little time improving to 29-0 all-time against the Red Flash.
The Panthers remained patient while trying to figure out St. Francis' defense. Once the Panthers found a way to get inside, they never stopped. Pitt outscored St. Francis 44-16 in the paint, most of the points coming on dunks or layups courtesy of Taylor and Moore.
St. Francis finally seemed to calm down after trailing 27-4, but failed to make any sort of serious run at the Panthers, who are starting to round into form with the start of Big East play a week away.
The only hiccup came courtesy of Moore, who blew a wide-open one-handed dunk on a fast break — missing the basket entirely. He atoned later in the half, driving the baseline and throwing one down over Eatherton just before the halftime buzzer.