The Pitt basketball team had a fight on their hands for much of the afternoon against Kent State, but Pitt leaned on its experience to come away with a win.
Michael Young (23), Jamel Artis (19) and James Robinson (18) combined to score 60 points as Pitt defeated the Golden Flashes 85-76 to remain unbeaten on the season.
”Those three guys were terrific,” said Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. “The numbers speak to that. I like the passing and the shot selection was as good as you can get. The other guys fed off them. We did a lot of good things offensively. It was a very good performance.”
Pitt (4-0) had a fight on their hands from the Golden Flashes, but eventually opened up a 10-point lead heading into halftime, mostly on the strength of Artis, Young and Robinson.
The Panthers trio combined for 38 of Pitt’s 42 first-half points as the Panthers built up a 42-32 halftime lead.
Kent State (3-2) was able to stay in the game early and even held the lead at 25-24 with eight minutes left in the half. Most of that success was due largely in part to the fact that the Golden Flashes outrebounded the Panthers. Kent State grabbed 11 first-half offensive rebounds compared to only two for Pitt.
On the day the Panthers we outrebounded 33-26 (14-5 offensive).
“We got it turned around a little bit in the second half, but we have work to do defensively,” said Dixon. “We knew they rebound the ball well. They are good and they are big. We are going to play teams just as good and just as big. We have to do a better job in that area. We knew that going in and have to keep getting better.”
After the Golden Flashes took the lead on a three-pointer from Jaylin Walker, Robinson answered right back at the other end with a three-point play on a driving layup. The senior guard then connected on a three-point shot to extend the Pitt lead.
Moments later Sterling Smith and Artis both connected from behind the arc to give the Panthers some breathing room heading into the half.
Pitt, who shot 62 percent from the floor in the first half, really could get whatever they wanted offensively against Kent State. Once they tightened up defensively and held the Golden Flashes to just one shot, they began seeing their lead expand.
A part of slowing Kent State down was switching to a zone for long stretches late in the first half.
“The zone helped us a little bit more with rebounding,” said Young. “We are a better man team, but when we were playing man we had to hedge a lot and certain guys had to switch and guards ended up down on their bigs. The zone just helped us a little more with rebounding and being in position to box guys out.”
The second half started the same the first ended for the Panthers as they eventually built up a 17-point lead. Kent State cut the Pitt lead to seven with just under two minutes remaining, but the Panthers leaned on some excellent perimeter shooting to extend the lead.
On the afternoon Pitt shot 56 percent from the floor, including 63 percent (10-of-16) from behind the arc.
“It felt good to hit some shots,” said Robinson. “We’ve been working really hard in practice on our shooting,” Coach is stressing on taking the open shots. Mike (Young) and the bigs did a great job of passing out of the post and on the perimeter we created and kicked out and found the open shooters.”
The Panthers also had success sharing the basketball as they assisted on 26 of their 31 made baskets. Robinson led the way with 10 while Young also chipped in six dimes.
“I feel like we have great chemistry right now,” Young said. “We move the ball pretty well. It makes it easy to pass when we have more shooters and guys that are going to knock down shots.”
Kent State was led in scoring by Xavier Pollard with 23. Jimmy Hall also chipped in 21.
“Pitt’s a good team and they are very well coached,” said Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff. “They played at a very high level. So did we, but a couple plays here and there we didn’t make made the difference. You have to give them a ton of credit.”
Pitt will be back in action on Tuesday when they play host to Purdue as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
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