Pitt coasts past Eastern Washington 84-51 to start season 7-1


Dec 6, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Jamel Artis (1) handles the ball against the Central Arkansas Bears during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. PITT won 100-47. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Junior forward Michael Young scored 21 points, while junior forward Jamel Artis added 14 as Pitt crushed Eastern Washington 84-51 Friday night at the Pete.

Jamie Dixon and his Pitt squad welcomed defending Big Sky Tournament Champion Eastern Washington to Pittsburgh as part of the Gotham Classic.

It was not a pleasant trip to Pittsburgh for the Eagles.

Pitt’s size, strength, and overall athleticism proved too much for the Eagles, who were simply overmatched.  Less than seven minutes into the contest, Pitt surged forward with a 15-0 run to take a 22-6 lead as junior guard Chris Jones knocked down a three-pointer.

Young and Artis continue to thrive at the forward positions for the Panthers, and the Eagles simply could not stop them, as they combined for 35 points.  Rafael Maia, a graduate transfer from Brown, got the start at center again and tallied 6 points and 11 rebounds.  Jones added 11 points off the bench, while junior forward Sheldon Jeter chipped in 9 points and hauled in 6 rebounds.

Eastern Washington (5-5) came into the contest as one of the highest scoring teams in the nation, but Pitt locked down on them, as they only made 19 f 51 shots (37.3%) and 7 of 23 from the three-point line.  Pitt shut down the Eagles transition game, and the defense held them to a season-low shooting percentage.  Senior point guard Austin McBroom led the Eagles with 14 points, while 6-foot-5 Australian junior forward Felix Von Hofe and 6-foot-8 Australian senior forward Venky Jois each added 10.

Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford indicated, “We were a welterweight fighting a heavyweight here.  We took one punch and we weren’t knocked out, but we laid on the ground and hoped we could get our purse and leave, and that’s why it was an ugly game.”

Pitt shut down the Eagles second leading scorer Bogdan Bliznyuk, who finished with 7 points on 2 of 8 shooting.  The 6-foot-6 Ukrainian sophomore came into the game averaging 14.6 points per game, but he turned the ball over six times and failed to score double digits for the first time all season.

Considering the Eagles only lost 96-86 at Davidson and returned several key players from a team that made the NCAA Tournament last season, I thought the contest would be much closer last night.  Pitt outrebounded the Eagles 43-22 and pretty much had their way inside.  Pitt shot 50% from the field (28 for 56), including 6 of 14 from the three-point line.  The Panthers also had a 19-2 edge in second-chance points, and turned 15 Eagles turnovers into 27 points.

Last night was one of Pitt’s best defensive games of the year, a key point that Jamie Dixon likely emphasized at practice.  The Panthers also continue to play unselfish, and several players are contributing.  The Pitt bench scored 35 points, compared to 6 for the Eagles.  The Eagles touted several foreign players, who may not be used to the aggressive defensive style that Jamie Dixon wants his Panthers to play.  Pitt’s largest lead was 82-45 with 2:25 to go in the contest.


This Pitt team is deeper than last year’s NIT squad, were beating Gonzaga before the game was cancelled, and hung with Purdue a few weeks ago.  It is difficult to measure how successful a team can be until conference play, but I am optimistic about Pitt’s success in the ACC and NCAA Tournament chances this season.

Pitt has more weapons that can shoot the three-pointer this season, and the Panthers also boast more of an inside presence at center with the additions of graduate transfers Maia and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa.

The Gotham Classic consists of four games, in which the final game will be Pitt against Davidson in Madison Square Garden on December 20th.

Pitt hosts Morehead State on Sunday.