Knight silences critics with play vs. Rhode Island
Brandin Knight heard the catcalls from Rhode Island fans who questioned the Pitt point guard’s credentials, from his All-American status to the Panthers’ national ranking to his standing in the family hierarchy.
They didn’t just tell Knight he was overrated. They told him he wasn’t as good as his brother Brevin, the former Standford star and current Memphis Grizzlies backup point guard. They mocked his name and his game.
By game’s end, Knight had them clammed up.
Knight couldn’t help but crack a slight smile after scoring a season-high 22 points in Pitt’s 87-71 victory Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 8,121 at Rhode Island’s new $54 million Ryan Center.
“Everywhere we go is pretty much a hostile environment,” Knight said. “We’re targeted on everyone’s list, naturally, because we’re ranked so high. I get to hear the chants — ‘Brevin’s better. Or your brother sucks.’ All that stuff just helps me. I just take it in stride.
“Of course, he’s better. That’s why he’s in the NBA.”
Knight showed signs that he has recovered from offseason arthroscopic surgery against Ohio State on Wednesday, when he had 17 points, four rebounds and six assists in 34 minutes in the 69-49 win. He followed that with his most dominating offensive performance of the season against Rhode Island.
Knight was at his best against the Rams, doubling his season scoring average. He came in averaging 29.9 minutes per game; against Rhode Island, he logged 38. Knight came in shooting 39 percent from the field and 28 percent from 3-point range; against Rhode Island, he was 7 of 14 from the field, including 5 of 9 from behind the arc.
“I got some open looks,” Knight said. “Our guys did a great job setting screens in our half-court man-to-man offense. The opportunities were there. Early in the season, I hadn’t been capitalizing on them.
“(Saturday), everything felt like it was good when I was shooting.”
Knight, a 6-foot senior, drew rave reviews from the Rams. He was the key to Pitt’s offense. When guarded closely, he penetrated and dished passes to open players. When given a cushion, Knight drained long 3-pointers.
“He’s real calm on the court,” Rhode Island shooting guard Dustin Hellenga said. “He doesn’t make too many mistakes. He gets his teammates involved. He’s a helluva point guard.”
Knight also held Rhode Island point guard Howard Smith in check. Smith was 0 for 6 from the field and finished with two points, six assists and four turnovers in 21 minutes. Knight, by contrast, had five rebounds, four assists, four steals and four turnovers while sitting out only two minutes.
Despite being Pitt’s leading scorer, Knight is on pace to finish his career as its all-time assists leader. He has 52 in eight games this season, and his 622 career assists rank second behind Sean Miller (744, 1987-92).
If Knight didn’t come to Rhode Island with respect, he certainly left with it.
“He’s such a level-headed point guard,” Rhode Island coach Jim Baron said. “He just gets the ball to the right people and doesn’t lose his cool.”
Especially not over how he is rated.
Pitt All-America point guard Brandin Knight had his best game of the season — scoring-wise — in the Panthers’ 87-71 victory at Rhode Island on Saturday. Here is a game-by-game look at his season statistics: