ANNAPOLIS, Md. — It didn’t matter to Navy that Pittsburgh is coming off a losing season and woefully lacking in experience.
Any win over an Atlantic Coast Conference team is something to savor, especially when it comes at home in the season opener.
Bryce Dulin scored 18 points, Shawn Anderson added 15 and Navy topped the cold-shooting Panthers 71-62 Friday night in the season-opening Veterans Classic.
“It was huge. A win like this shows we have the potential to be a very good team,” said Anderson, who had nine rebounds and five assists in a team-high 33 minutes.
The Midshipmen opened the second half with a 13-1 run to take a 52-39 lead and held off a late run by the Panthers in the closing minutes.
Pittsburgh missed its first 14 field goal attempts after halftime. Over the first 13 minutes of the second half, the Panthers were 5 for 20 from the floor and 0 for 9 from 3-point range.
“We have a slew of things to work on,” coach Kevin Stallings said.
Navy finished with a 39-30 rebounding advantage.
In their defense, the Panthers are extremely inexperienced. They lost all five starters from last season’s team and their only two returning scholarship letterwinners — Ryan Luther and Jonathan Milligan — had three starts between them.
Pitt closed to 66-62 with 1:31 left but didn’t have enough poise to complete the comeback.
Jared Wilson-Frame was at the free throw line with a chance to get the Panthers within a basket, but he missed both shots. Anderson subsequently made two free throws on the other end, and three more Navy foul shots sealed it.
“We might not be able to get the ball in the basket,” Stallings said, “but they will continue to play hard.”
Wilson-Frame led Pittsburgh with 20 points and Luther had 14.
After Dulin scored 11 in the first half to help Navy take a 39-38 halftime lead, Hasan Abdullah began the second half by hitting successive 3s for a seven-point cushion.
Shamiel Stevenson sank a free throw for the Panthers before Anderson connected from beyond the arc and Mo Lewis added a jumper to make it 50-39.
Pittsburgh: It could be a rough run for the Panthers in the ACC. Their inexperience was painfully evident against Navy, and the Midshipmen are not to be confused with the Tar Heels or even the Demon Deacons.
Navy: Games like this serve as a confidence-boost for a team that last season reached the Patriot League semifinals for the first time since 2001.
The Panthers figured there would be tough times this season. They weren’t counting on it happening so soon.
“We were hoping adversity would come a little later,” Stallings said. “But it came tonight.”
Pittsburgh: The Panthers host Montana on Monday night in the Legends Classic.
Navy: The Midshipmen) face another ACC foe, Miami, on the road Sunday afternoon.