Charles LeClaire, USA Today

Pitt edges Eastern Michigan: 6 takeaways

Pitt beats Eastern Michigan in season opener.

PETERSEN EVENTS CENTER--Pitt edged Eastern Michigan 93-90 in a double-overtime dog fight at the Petersen Events Center Friday night.

It was the first game under Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings and the debut hardwood outing for the Pitt script logo. The Panthers had ups and many downs. PantherMore.com gives you a handful of takeaways from the contest.

Despite suspicion that Pitt’s players and coaches might protest the national anthem, they did not.

Rather, when Pitt's pep band began its drum roll, Pitt's players and coaches all stood with their left arms wrapped around the shoulders of one another with their right hands over their hearts – a symbol of unity.

Sheldon Jeter has said repeatedly that the team was considering a protest of sorts but that the entire team would need to come to a consensus. Jeter was not available for postgame comment.

We learned that Pitt's bigs will routinely help each other out on defense. While Pitt might have the tallest starting lineup in Division I, it is undersized at the four and at the five. During one instance in the first half, Sheldon Jeter got posted up on the low block, and Michael Young doubled down from the foul line. This happened when Young got posted up and when Cameron Johnson got posted up, as well.

In the first half, Michael Young got bullied and backed down one possession by Eastern Michigan’s 6-10 center, who scored over top of him. It appeared as though he was not awarded help at any time.

Pitt showed an impressive amount of ball movement against Eastern Michigan’s 2-3 zone. We saw rapid-fire passing until a 3-pointer opened up or until a cutter was found. The only problems for the Panthers were that they oftentimes didn't display good passing, and not enough cutters cut. Pitt missed too many uncontested 3s (it canned just 8 of 33--24 percent), and too many of Pitt’s chest passes were tipped or intercepted by defenders (the majority of Pitt's turnovers came at the hands of Eastern Michigan's 2-3).

 

After it was announced that sophomore guard Crisshawn Clark will miss the season with knee surgery, it appears as though Pitt will go eight deep and occasionally nine deep. Ryan Luther was the first off the bench for Pitt. He was succeeded by Justice Kithcart, then Jonathan Milligan. Damon Wilson entered the game fourth. Wilson registered just 2 minutes of playing time.

Kithcart played a substantial role in the win. When Cameron Johnson fouled out during the first overtime period, Kithcart took his spot. In 27 minutes, he did not turn the ball over once.

In the first half, Pitt pushed the ball up the floor off made buckets at a pace so fast that it might as well have stabbed Brandin Knight in the heart. Off missed buckets, Pitt pushed the ball at a pace so fast that it might as well have stabbed Brandin Knight in the heart and then dump his dead body in the river.

Pitt went through a span in the first half in which it failed to score on three consecutive transition opportunities. On one occasion, Jamel Artis pulled up for and missed a 3-pointer while Pitt had numbers. In the past number of years at Pitt, this would have never been allowed.

On the more positive side, the Panthers wasted no time off rebounds. When they were not looking for a transition bucket, they got settled into their offense quickly--about five seconds off the miss.

 

Pitt went to a 2-3 zone for some of the overtime periods, and it was the zone that ended up rattling Eastern Michigan in the second overtime. Stallings said after the game that he was hesitant to show it earlier because the 2-3 is Eastern Michigan's base defense. He used it twice in the first half, and in both possessions, Pitt allowed scores.


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