Pitt survives test from D-II power Philadelphia
If Pitt coach Jamie Dixon wanted a test for his players in their final exhibition game, he found one.
The Panthers trailed Division II Philadelphia University at halftime Friday night, but they put together a frenetic offensive display and raced to a 82-71 victory over the Rams at Petersen Events Center.
Defensively, however, not so much.
“We’ve got some guys that made some shots and did some things but hurt us defensively,” said Dixon, who took a long time before meeting with reporters after the game. “I thought (Philadelphia) was a clinic offensively.”
Meanwhile, Pitt shot 69.2 percent in the second half and outscored the visitors 48-36 after halftime, but Dixon wasn’t happy.
“Offensively, we’re pretty good,” Dixon said. “We’re making the same mistakes (defensively). Too many open looks, and we’re paying for it.”
Sophomore forward Michael Young led Pitt with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Junior forward Durand Johnson added 19 points, and junior point guard James Robinson 16.
Philadelphia junior forward Derek Johnson scored a game-high 34 points and made 7 of 13 3-pointers.
“Our defense wasn’t that good,” Young said.
Philadelphia coach Herb Magee, the winningest coach in men’s basketball, is known as the “Shot Doctor” for good reason. In his 49th season at the school, he regularly produces excellent shooting teams. The Rams, ranked No. 14 in the preseason D-II poll, shot 48.1 percent in the first half (including 5 of 9 on 3-pointers) and led 35-34 at intermission.
“We’ve got a good team,” Magee said. “Our scouting report was to play zone because we didn’t think they were a good shooting team.”
Trailing by one, Pitt opened the second half with three 3-pointers after closing the first half with a pair of 3-pointers. The Panthers hit their first seven shots of the second half.
Through it all, Young was the catalyst, dominating inside with a dunk and two other high-percentage baskets as Pitt regained the lead.
“I didn’t think he could shoot like that,” Magee said.
Philadelphia’s defense had no answer for Young, but the same could be said for the Panthers defense against Derek Johnson, who buried one shot after another. His 3-pointer made it 61-61 with 10 minutes remaining.
Durand Johnson’s 3-point play and jumper gave Pitt breathing room at 68-61 and his 3-pointer made it 74-64 at the 4:48 mark.
“We’re kind of a team in the works,” said Dixon.
Pitt opens the regular season Nov. 14 against Niagara at Petersen Events Center.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected]