Panthers Struggle Defensively in Final Tune-Up Before Regular Season
By: Andrew Stern
The Pitt Panthers’ issues defensively throughout the exhibition season have been both pronounced and recurring.
Pittsburgh finished the exhibition season 2-0, thanks to an 82-71 victory over 8th ranked Division II team, Philadelphia University.
Despite the 11 point victory, it was far from a perfect effort for the Panthers, as the home team allowed the Rams to shoot 47 percent from the field and from behind the three point arc.
The offensive success for Philadelphia was due, in large part, to junior Derek Johnson.
The 6-6 Conshohocken, PA native poured in 34 points on 12-21 shooting. Johnson also made seven of his 13 three point attempts on the night.
Following the game, head coach Jamie Dixon was not pleased with Chris Jones and Durand Johnsons’ defensive effort on the aforementioned Derrick Johnson.
“How many rebounds did they have total?” Dixon asked after the game. “One total, between the two of them. They made some shots. [But] I’m looking at the other side of the floor, and they’re not getting it done. They’re simply not getting it done. The guy they were matched up with had 34. It’s great to have 17 [points]; it’s great to have 11, and 19. But put those two together and they didn’t have as many as the guy who had 34.”
The Panthers, struggled throughout the first half of the game Friday evening, and even trailed by a point at the half time break, as Philly, behind by 20 first half points by Derrick Johnson, enjoyed a 35-34 lead at the halftime break.
Following the halftime break, Pitt and Philadelphia continued to match one another nearly shot for shot.
As a matter of fact, the Panthers and the underdog Rams were tied at 61 all with just 10:04 remaining in the contest.
Following the deadlock, Pitt went on a 17-5 run, a span that lasted over seven minutes. This stretch finally put the game away for good and included two of the Panthers nine three point field goals on the evening.
“Pitt is a very good team,” Philadelphia Coach Herb Magee said after the game. “But their weakness [we felt] is their outside shooting. And clearly that wasn’t proven [true] tonight, as they went 9-17 from three, and shot 69 percent in the second half.“
Pitt sophomore and projected starter Mike Young had another strong game. The Duquesne, PA native scored 21 points on 7-11 shooting, and collected a team high 11 rebounds.
Young averaged 22.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game over the two game exhibition slate.
While Pitt finished exhibition season with an average win margin of nearly 13 points per game, and a perfect 2-0 record, sophomore Sheldon Jeter knows there’s plenty that team can work on.
“Our defense kept them in the game honestly” the Beaver Falls native said. “ Tonight on ball we didn’t play didn’t play well, help we didn’t play well, just all around it was a bad defensive night, and two bad defensive outings. [The] only good thing is we can only get better from here.”
The Panthers will open the regular season next Friday Night when they face the Niagara Purple Eagles. Tipoff is set for 7 PM, and you can listen to the game LIVE on WPTS Radio.