Panthers struggle, seal win late over Samford
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
Facing a year-long suspension that went into effect Friday, Durand Johnson watched from the bench as Pitt small forward Jamel Artis registered 12 points in the Panthers’ (2-0) 63-56 win over Samford (0-2) Sunday afternoon.
Artis gobbled up 32 minutes of playing time, many of which could have belonged to Johnson had he not been suspended.
Pitt never broke the game open, and the contest was decided in the final minutes of play. Pitt forward Michael Young banked in a lay-up with 3:47 remaining, but Samford crawled back over the next several possessions, and Samford sharpshooter Tyler Hood nailed his sixth 3-pointer of the game with 25 seconds remaining to cut Pitt’s lead to 59-56.
Artis and point guard James Robinson were fouled in the next two possessions and sent to the free-throw line, where they each made a pair of foul shots to push the game out of reach for Samford. The Bulldogs did not score again.
The sophomore Young finished with a career-high 20 points, many of which were scored in transition. Young said last week that he expected to play a lot at center against nonconference opponents that lack height. Samford falls under that category, and, while Young started at the power forward, he slid into the center position for the majority of the game.
Joseph Uchebo started at center for Pitt. Uchebo and reserve center Derrick Randall played a mere 14 minutes combined, and, together, the two collected just three rebounds.
Samford outrebounded Pitt 33 to 31, and the Bulldogs grabbed 13 offensive rebounds opposed to Pitt’s seven. Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said the majority of them were off long rebounds from missed 3-pointers. He said his guards were to blame for neglecting to track down many loose balls off the rim.
“It seemed like we played some good possessions of defense, they took shots that we wanted to and then they came up with the rebound. And that’s been happening too often,” Dixon said. “We simply got outrebounded. That’s obviously our calling card, and we didn’t get it done there. We don’t win very often when we’re outrebounded. That’s why we were not as good as we should have been tonight.”
Robinson recorded an eight-point, eight-assist and six-rebound performance, and backup Josh Newkirk tied a career-high in assists (seven).
Pitt’s next four games will be played in the Aloha State. The Panthers will leave Wednesday for Maui, HI, to play the University of Hawaii Friday at 11:59 p.m. followed by three games in the 2014 EA Sports Maui Invitational.
According to Young, it’s “on to the next.”
“I feel like we were prepared [for the Maui Invitational] before we played our first two games,” Young said. “We’re going to try resting our bodies and get ready for Hawaii.”