Pitt played relatively well against No. 9 Gonzaga before the game was cancelled due to a super slippery court.
After facing a serious test to begin the year, Pitt has gone through smooth sailing against some weaker opponents to sit at 4-0. Only three teams (Syracuse, Louisville, and Pitt) remain undefeated in the Big East.. Oops I mean ACC.
Pitt defeated St. Joseph’s Indiana 84-43, Detroit 95-79, Cornell 93-49, and Kent State 85-76.
Against St. Joseph’s, a division II program who was scheduled to ease Pitt’s 16,500 miles of travel from Okinawa, Japan, did not provide much fight. Michael Young nearly posted a triple-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists, while Sheldon Jeter and Cameron Johnson also contributed with 10 points. Pitt shot 47% from the field and scored 44 bench points in the blowout.
Detroit hung with Pitt in the first half, putting up 41 points, and took the lead five minutes into the second half. Jamie Dixon went to a zone defense, spurring a 22-3 Pitt run that blew open the contest. Young scored 21 points, while sophomore Ryan Luther recorded his first career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. Jamel Artis added 15 points, while Jeter scored 10.
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Against Cornell, Pitt locked down on defense, holding Cornell’s two leading scorers to only two made field goals. Artis recorded a game-high 21 points, while Chris Jones came off the bench and added 15 points. Young scored 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists, while true freshman Damon Wilson Jr scored 10. Pitt opened the game on a 16-2 run and led by as many as 48 points in the second half.
Kent State was likely Pitt’s toughest opponent of the four, providing a better challenge. The Panthers recorded 26 assists on 31 made field goals, showing superb ball movement. Young led Pitt with 23 points while Artis was 8 of 10 shooting for 19 points. Senior point guard James Robinson scored 18 points with 10 assists against the Golden Flashes. Kent State gave Pitt problems on the offensive side, recording several offensive rebounds and scoring second chance points. Pitt cannot allow this to happen against Purdue on Tuesday.
A few observations early into the season:
1.) Michael Young is thriving at the power forward position. Young leads Pitt with 18 points per game, and he is also making excellent passes.
2.) Pitt appears to be deeper this season compared to last. Graduate transfers Alonzo Nelson-Ododa and Sterling Smith provide experience and depth that was missing a year ago. Ododa is a shot-blocking presence and Smith can hit the three-pointer. These two positions were weaknesses a season ago.
3) Pitt has several experienced players that can change the impact of a game. Besides Young, Artis, and Robinson, juniors Sheldon Jeter and Chris Jones could score double-digits any given night. I also think redshirt freshman Cameron Johnson can be a key player in this offense.
4) Since Pitt could hang with Gonzaga, the Panthers should be able to battle Purdue. Compared to the four games currently player, Pitt will have a much tougher test tomorrow night at the Peterson Events Center.
No. 11 Purdue (6-0) will experience the Oakland Zoo for the first time, as they face Pitt in the Big Ten/ ACC Challenge. The game can be seen on ESPN2 at 9pm.
Purdue recently defeated Old Dominion 61-39 and Florida 85-70, and the Boilermakers are averaging over 84 points per game (ppg).
7-foot-2 sophomore center Isaac Haas is the leading scorer at 15 ppg and 6.5 rpg, and he will provide a challenge in the paint for Pitt. 6-foot-5 senior guard Rapheal Davis is averaging 11.6 ppg (46% shooting three pointers), while 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Vince Edwards is scoring 10.5 ppg and 5.8 rpg (42% shooting three pointers). 6-foot-9 freshman forward Caleb Swanigan is averaging nearly a double-double with 9.7 ppg and 9.2 rpg.
Pitt was able to hang with No. 9 Gonzaga, who was bigger in size than Purdue, but Purdue is a pretty good basketball team with size as well. I believe the key of this game will be rebounding. Pitt cannot allow second chance points, and the Panthers tend to play better when they are distributing the ball around. Michael Young and Jamel Artis may provide the toughest test for Purdue early in the season.
We’ll find out what the Panthers are made of. I think Michael Young will be the difference maker in this one.
Prediction: Pitt 71, Purdue 66