Navy entered the 2017-2018 basketball season with a veteran squad featuring eight returning lettermen, including four starters. The Midshipmen welcomed back their top five scorers.
Same could not be said for Pittsburgh, which underwent a complete roster overhaul. The Panthers had four players graduate, five transfer and another dismissed from its 2016-2017 squad that finished .500 (16-16).
Head coach Kevin Stallings brought in 11 new scholarship players, most of any NCAA school. Pitt is one of only six programs with no returning starters and has nine players (seven freshmen, two transfers) that have never played in a Division I game.
So it stood to reason that Navy would have an advantage over Pittsburgh in terms of chemistry and cohesion when the teams met in Friday night's season opener. That proved the case over the long haul as the Midshipmen used their experience and teamwork to notch a rare victory over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent.
Senior guard Bryce Dulin led a balanced attack with 18 points as Navy maintined the lead most of the way in beating Pittsburgh, 71-62, in the nightcap of the Veterans Classic. Senior swingman Shawn Anderson had a solid all-around game with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists for the Midshipmen, who won for the first time in four tries in their own season-opening tournament.
Junior point guard Hasan Abdullah totaled eight points and five assists for Navy, which built a 15-point lead just past the midway mark of the second half and turned back several comeback attempts by Pitt.
Navy had previously lost to college basketball heavyweights Michigan State, Florida and Ohio State in the Veterans Classic.
Junior forward Jared Wilson-Frame scored 20 points to lead Pittsburgh, which led the contest for just 3 ½ minutes. Wilson-Frame is a transfer from Northwest Florida State, where he tallied almost 1,000 points in 56 games.
Senior forward Ryan Luther, one of only two returning lettermen, totaled 14 points and eight rebounds for the Panthers.
Pittsburgh was doomed by a woeful offensive performance to start the second half. The Panthers missed 14 straight field goals and also committed three turnovers over the opening 10:17 in falling behind by 15 points.
Pitt's lone point during that decisive stretch came off a free throw. The Panthers did not make their first field goal of the second half until Shamiel Stevenson followed his own miss at the 9:43 mark.
Anderson canned a 3-pointer and also scored off a driving layup as Navy outscored the visitors 17-3 to take its largest lead of the game. Lacey followed a missed free throw with a tap-in to give the Mids a commanding 56-41 advantage with 9:15 to go.
Pitt showed some signs of life with Wilson-Frame capping an 8-0 run with a layup that cut the deficit to seven and forced Navy to call a timeout with 7:03 remaining. A steal that led to a follow dunk by Luther got the Panthers within five at 56-51, but the Mids quickly regained control.
Dulin scored off a driving layup and drew a foul in the process for a three-point play then swished a 3-pointer on the following possession as Navy pushed the lead back to 11 with 4:35 remaining.
Dulin knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in scoring 11 points as Navy took a 39-38 halftime lead. Anderson and Kiernan contributed six points apiece for the Midshipmen, who led for almost 15 of the 20 minutes.
Wilson-Frame drained three shots from beyond the arc in netting 13 points for Pittsburgh, which committed nine turnovers. Carr went 3-for-3 on 3-pointers in adding 12 points as the Panthers rallied from an early deficit to tie the score five times and take the lead once.
Chemistry was the difference early on as the Midshipmen had five different players reach the scoring column in taking an eight-point lead with just over seven minutes elapsed.
Stallings insists he has recruited quality ACC talent and that showed soon enough as the Panthers responded with an 11-2 run to move ahead. It was back-and-forth the rest of the first half with Navy taking another seven point lead on a 3-pointer by Dulin with 2:12 remaining. Wilson-Frame swished a three of his own in the final seconds to cut the deficit to one at intermission.