Days removed from over 16,500 miles of travel, the Pittsburgh Panthers expected to be a little sluggish. Which is why the program scheduled St. Joseph’s (Ind.) College, a Division II program the likes of which Pitt would usually play in the preseason.
But Michael Young’s activity level remained high and despite some missed shots early on, there appeared to be little impact on his energy as he nearly posted a triple-double in Pitt’s 84-43 victory Tuesday.
“I didn’t have as much jetlag coming back as I thought I would,” Young said. “It was good for our team to come right back and play right away, kind of get our legs under us.”
Young finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and six assists to lead the Panthers, and his head coach thought the forward’s ball movement help establish the offense.
“I thought Mike really set the tone with some passing early,” Jamie Dixon said. “We didn’t knock him down but he could’ve had a triple-double with some of the passes he made early in the game.”
Cameron Johnson scored 10 points and Sheldon Jeter added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Pitt (1-0). Davone Daniels led St. Joseph’s (0-3) with 10 points as the Pumas made 11 of 53 field goals.
Pitt’s home-opener became the team’s season-opener after the Panthers’ first game was called at halftime. The matchup between Pitt and No. 9 Gonzaga in Okinawa, Japan, ended early due to unsafe conditions caused by a slippery court.
“This game was positioned for a reason,” Dixon said. “Not knowing how we’d handle the travel, the trip and I thought we handled it very well.”
The Pumas did not make a basket until seven minutes into the game when Nathan Tidwell made a long jumper. Tidwell’s basket at the 13:03 mark came after an 0-for-10 shooting start.
Before St. Joseph’s first field goal, the Panthers opened up a 12-4 lead.
Pitt finished with 11 blocked shots.
Tidwell made a 3-pointer in the final minutes of the half to cut Pitt’s lead to nine, but two baskets by Robinson extended the lead to 14 points. The Pumas trailed by double-digits for the rest of the game.
Pitt held St. Joseph’s to 27 percent shooting in the first half and led 37-23 at halftime. The Panthers scored 18-straight points to finish the game.
“I thought for probably 33 to 34 minutes we played really, really well,” head coach Tom Church said. “We were moving the ball, looking to attack.”
The Panthers shot 47 percent from the field and received 44 bench points to the seven contributed by the Pumas’ reserves.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers signed three players to their 2016 recruiting class, the school announced Tuesday. Pitt signed guard Justice Kithcart, forward Corey Manigault and JUCO guard Crisshawn Clark in the fall early signing period.
St. Joseph’s College: The Pumas are 0-3 to start the season and lost each game by double digits. After Tuesday’s loss, St. Joseph’s has lost its three games by an average of 33.3 points.
The game against Gonzaga won’t count in Pitt’s standings but it left a lasting impression on Young, who
“I wish we could’ve experienced more of the city we were in but they have rules over there,” Young said. “It was definitely fun to see the Marines and interact with them, see how they go about their day-to-day schedule and to be around them was fun.”
As for Jeter, he was impressed by the food when he took a chance before Pitt departed for home.
“The entire trip I kind of shied away from the food really and then we were leaving and I was in the airport, I was like ‘you know what I’ve got to at least try it,’” Jeter said.’” So I went and got some pork rib noodles, they were really good.”