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Pitt’s ‘work in progress’ team tops Samford for Maui Invitational win

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Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Sheldon Jeter dunks off an alley-oop pass against Samford on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
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Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Michael Young prepares to dunk against Samford on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
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Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Pitt's James Robinson passes the ball with Samford's Jamal Shabazz defending Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
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Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Jamel Artis dunks against Samford on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
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Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Josh Newkirk scores as Samford's Darius Jones-Gibson loses his balance Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
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Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Samford's Evan Taylor blocks Pitt's James Robinson on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.
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Sidney Davis | Trib Total Media
Samford's Evan Taylor pressures Pitt's Josh Newkirk on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.

Like it or not, there are going to be games like Pitt’s 63-56 Maui Invitational win over Samford on Sunday at Petersen Events Center.

That is, one that looks better on the scoreboard than what took place on the court.

“We didn’t play as well as we wanted, but we won and that’s all that matters,” said sophomore forward Michael Young, who scored a career-high 20 points on 10 of 13 shooting.

“For a young team, to get challenged like this early is a good thing. I think we’ll bounce back better than people think we will.”

At one point, Pitt — which featured a veteran lineup last season — had five sophomores on the court.

“We’re getting a feel for what our guys are going to do in certain situations,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “Five guys are new. You’ve got to learn by experience.”

The Panthers (2-0) struggled to solve Samford’s pressure defense early. The same Samford team lost its opener at Purdue by 40 points.

Pitt eventually overcame a five-point deficit and built a 31-23 lead at intermission.

Pitt experienced shaky moments late, including committing an offensive foul and a walking violation in the final minute. Samford rallied from an 11-point deficit to within 59-56.

Defensively, the Panthers played zone because of inexperience, and failed to guard 3-point specialist Tyler Hood, who buried thee triples down the stretch despite a pregame warning from their coach.

However, the Panthers made four consecutive free throws to preserve the win in front of 8,249 fans.

Dixon was pleased with Pitt’s ball distribution, evidenced by 24 field goals and 20 assists. However, Pitt was outrebounded 33-31.

“That’s our calling card,” Dixon said.

“I would have bet any amount of money they would have beat us by 15 on the boards,” Samford coach Scott Padgett said.

Capitalizing on Samford’s ball security issues, Pitt tilted the game midway through the first half as sophomore guard Josh Newkirk hit a 3-pointer and a fastbreak layup, junior guard James Robinson fed sophomore forward Jamel Artis for a dunk and Robinson, Newkirk and sophomore forward Sheldon Jeter collaborated on the play of the game resulting in Jeter throwing down a rim-rattling slam.

“We stopped their flow,” said Artis, who scored 12 points and grabbed five rebounds. “We got some dunks and the crowd got into it.”

Robinson had another strong game with eight points, six rebounds, eight assists and two blocks in 35 minutes.

Pitt’s next Maui Invitational game is against Hawaii at midnight Saturday in Maui.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] .

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