Panthers Pull Away from Bonnies in Sloppy 58-54 Win
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
Midway through the second half of Pitt’s 58-54 win over St. Bonaventure at the Petersen Events Center Saturday, it looked as though the Panthers might cruise to a worry-free, double-digit victory.
They went up 11 points with 11 minutes to play, but St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt went to a 2-3 zone that sometimes extended to a half-court trap, and the Panthers were sluggish to react.
Five minutes later, the Bonnies grabbed a one-point lead, and Pitt would settle down, making its free throws and lay-ups.
“We found a way to win against a really good team,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said after the game. “I was disappointed with how we handled the first couple of possessions [of the zone]… But we made some adjustments… Simply put, we did not do what we normally do against that defense. We didn’t get lay-ups.”
With a minute to play, Pitt led 52-48. St. Bonaventure brought their half-court trap to span the length of the floor, and Pitt’s guards struggled to break it.
Pitt turned the ball over twice, and the Bonnies took a 47-44 lead with four minutes to play.
But Pitt responded with three-consecutive field goals and complimenting defensive stands, putting the Bonnies in a position where they were forced to foul as the game clock crept under a minute.
Jamel Artis was fouled immediately off an inbounds pass with 30 seconds to play, and, with Pitt in the bonus, Artis sunk two free-throws.
But the Bonnies were essentially given Artis’ points back after Pitt point guard Josh Newkirk fouled St. Bonaventure’s Jaylen Adams while he was bringing the ball down the court with 27 seconds left.
Adams made both free-throws, and when the Panthers got the ball back, Pitt’s Michael Young, who started at center Saturday, was fouled off an inbounds pass from Chris Jones.
Young made one of two free-throws, giving Pitt a 55-52 lead. Needing a 3-pointer to tie, the Bonnies set up a play for Adams to get an open look from outside.
They got what they wished for and then some.
Newkirk committed a second ill-advised foul on Adams in the act of shooting a 3-pointer that nearly caught the net. After the game, Newkirk classified both fouls as “mistakes.”
Adams hit just two of three. Young was fouled off the ensuing inbounds play, and he made one of two free-throws. The Bonnies botched their effort at a desperation heave, and the Panthers prevailed.
Young finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Artis also registered 14 points.
Wright given the start
After seven days of practicing, Cameron Wright got the nod to start for the Panthers after undergoing offseason surgery to repair a broken left foot.
The senior from Cleveland played under a minute against Duquesne, and, in __ minutes Saturday, Wright did not make much of an impact.
He was held to one point and he turned the ball over twice. Wright did not look his old self in many of Pitt’s half-court sets, and, when the Bonnies threw a half-court trap Pitt’s way, Wright nearly lost his handle twice.
Wright started the second half but was subbed out within minutes. Dixon discussed the decision to start Wright in his postgame remarks.
“It’s just a process,” Dixon said. “I wish he could come out and be terrific. When you talk about a foot, it’s 10 weeks of doing nothing. He’s in a brace, and, how does that help a guy [improve his skills]?”
“I feel good where he’s at,” Dixon added. “He’s playing aggressively, and he’s going to be alright for us.”
Jeter and Randall shunned from play
Saturday’s game marked the second-consecutive contest that Sheldon Jeter was not given any playing time. Dixon said in November that Jeter “is not there defensively,” and he said after Pitt’s 76-62 win over Duquesne last week that the Vanderbilt transfer will be a part of the team moving forward and that the Panthers “need to get him going.”
Dixon said Saturday that he still needs to “get Sheldon in the mix.”
Senior center Derrick Randall did not play at all, either.
Randall collected 12 rebounds in just 15 minutes of play in Pitt’s blowout-loss at Indiana earlier in the month and played a total of just four minutes against Duquesne.
Dixon said after the game that Randall is still feeling some minor effects of a foot injury sustained before the season, but that he is, for the most part, healthy.
Robinson cut on head
Late in the second half, Pitt point guard James Robinson was bumped above his ear while moving through the lane on defense.
Robinson immediately grimaced, and, when the play was blown dead, Robinson tucked his head into his chest.
The officials whistled for a timeout so that Robinson could be replaced by Josh Newkirk.
Dixon said after the game that the impact of the bump cut the skin above Robinson’s ear and nothing else.
At least one NBA scout was on hand to see Robinson play Saturday. He finished with nine points, three rebounds and four assists.