Two years ago, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles were the darlings of the NCAA Tournament.
Tuesday night, Jamie Dixon’s Pitt Panthers made sure that they wouldn’t become the Eagles next upset victim.
The Panthers used a balanced offensive attack and cruised to a sixth consecutive victory, defeating a very sloppy Florida Gulf Coast team 71-54 for Pitt’s 200th win all-time at the Petersen Events Center.
The win was the second convincing one in a row for the Panthers, who begin ACC play on Saturday against North Carolina State.
“I liked what we did offensively,” said Dixon. “We were unselfish and took good shots. I liked the inside-out and we got a lot of good looks out of it. I wish we could have defended better, but they are a good team. It’s a good win for us going forward.”
James Robinson scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half as Pitt (10-3) built up a 33-24 halftime lead. Meanwhile, the Eagles didn’t do themselves any favors as they committed 10 of their 16 turnovers during the game’s first 20 minutes.
Florida Gulf Coast (9-5) quickly cut the deficit to seven in the second half, but the Panthers responded with a 12-4 run that pushed their lead to 51-38.
Both teams did a majority of their damage from the paint.
Pitt shot 54 percent from the floor for the game, a season-high allowed by FGC. Michael Young led the charge with a game-high 16 points. Young made 7-of-9 attempts on the night as Pitt was able to turn a lot of hustle plays into layups.
Young also tied for the Pitt lead with six rebounds as Pitt outrebounded a good rebounding FGC team 28-26.
“We put a lot of focus into rebounding,” said Young. “Everybody. All five of us including the guards.”
The game would have been a bigger blowout had the Eagles not done a lot of damage inside as well. Their above the rim style saw them shoot 46 percent on the night, scoring 38 of their 54 points in the paint.
Pitt upped their lead to 62-45, their largest of the night, with an efficient offensive attack that saw them make nine consecutive field goals.
Nine different Pitt players found their way into the scoring column. In addition to the big nights from Robinson and Young, Cameron Wright also finished in double figures for the Panthers with 15.
Pitt is now 6-0 with Wright in the lineup and looks to carry that momentum into conference play.
“We just want to get better every game,” said Wright. “We just need to keep preparing. We know North Carolina State is a good team so we just need to go in there strong and start ACC play.”
Florida Gulf Coast was led in scoring by Julian DeBose with 12. Brett Comer also finished in double figure for the Eagles with 10.
“I thought Pitt did a good job of coming out and being aggressive early,” said Florida Gulf Coast head coach Joe Dooley. “They forced us into turnovers and turned those into points. They knocked down shots. Pitt is a real good team.”
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