NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Carl Krauser was not about to let Jamie Dixon lose his first game as Pittsburgh's new coach.
Krauser scored 19 of his career-high 21 points in the second half to lead the 22nd-ranked Panthers to a 71-62 victory over Alabama in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
Dixon took over the program on April 15 after Ben Howland left for UCLA. The defending Big East champions shook off woeful 0-for-11 shooting from beyond the arc in the first half - in part because Dixon fired up his team during halftime.
"As soon as he looked into our eyes and said, 'you're winners,' I knew he was talking about me," Krauser said. "I couldn't let my coach down to get his first career win."
Dixon's idea to build up his team's confidence rather than excoriate them is a prime example of why he was chosen as the 14th coach in school history. The 38-year-old is known as one of the savviest young minds in the game and a true players' coach as opposed to the mild-mannered Howland.
"Coach Dixon has more energy and at the same time, he's smooth," Krauser noted.
Although Dixon insisted he felt no pressure going into the game, he changed his tune when he was forced to use Krauser, Julius Page and Chevy Troutman down the stretch - all three players had four fouls.
"Maybe then I was feeling a little pressure at that point," Dixon said. "But we had smart guys. Carl was able to stay in there and not pick up any more fouls."
Page drilled a 3-pointer that gave the Panthers the lead for good, 51-49, with just under five minutes to go. Krauser and Jaron Brown added 3-pointers as part of a 13-4 run that established a 61-53 cushion with 1:28 left
"I was really proud of our guys for how we fought, especially after the 0-for-11 from three in the first half," Dixon said. "In the second half, we got confidence in Julius and Carl."
Troutman scored 12 of his 13 points in the first half and Brown netted 11 for Pittsburgh, which shot 50 percent (13-of-26) in the second half.
Krauser, one of four New York natives on Pittsburgh's squad, navigated around the defense of the speedy Antoine Pettway to make 6-of-15 shots and committed only one turnover. It was his first career start after backing up All-Big East performer Brandin Knight.
"I like playing in big-time games," Krauser said. "Playing in back of Brandin really helped me add to my game."
Pittsburgh improved to 9-2 in its last 11 games at Madison Square Garden.
While Pittsburgh lost three starters from its championship team, Alabama also lost stalwarts Mo Williams and Erwin Dudley among four departed starters. Chuck Davis helped pick up the slack with a career-high 20 points.
"I thought Chuck played pretty hard," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "We're young and frail, but we're not afraid. He's not afraid."
Panthers freshman Chris Taft, another New York native, pulled down 12 rebounds to help Pitt to a 43-38 edge on the glass. Brown added eight rebounds for Pitt, which retained its trademark bruising style with Dixon in control.
"We're trying to build a consistent program that's up there every year," Dixon said. "I have no agenda to put my stamp on it. This is our program and we have to do what we have to do for our team."
"Familiarity is good," Panthers center Toree Morris said. "We're familiar with what's going on and we're comfortable with him."
Pettway netted 17 points and Earnest Shelton chipped in 11 for Alabama, which shot just under 39 percent (22-of-57).