Pitt back on track with 84-61 win over Boston College
January 16, 2016 9:16 PM
Pitt's Damon Wilson steals the ball from Boston College's A.J. Turner in the first half Saturday at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt's Cameron Johnson drives to the net against Boston College's Dennis Clifford in the second half Saturday at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt's Rafael Maia grabs a rebound against Boston College's Garland Owens in the second half Saturday at Petersen Events Center.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon talked at length about the need for the Panthers to get over their loss Thursday at Louisville and focus on getting back on the winning track, and that’s exactly what they did.
The Panthers welcomed last-place Boston College Saturday to Petersen Events Center, took an early five-point lead and really never looked back.
Pitt kept the Eagles at arm’s length almost the entire way, then pulled away late for a workmanlike, 84-61 ACC win before a crowd of 10,260.
Jamel Artis led the way for the Panthers (15-2, 4-1) with 22 points and three rebounds, but Pitt also got a big game from reserve guard/forward Cameron Johnson, who hit four 3-pointers and scored 20 points.
“You have to see how you are going to handle adversity [after a loss],” Dixon said. “Are you going to point the finger, are you going to get down? But our guys were ready to go. I mean, they were quiet, they didn’t say much the entire ride back [from Louisville] and that’s pretty much how you want them to handle it.
“And then I thought once we got going at practice Friday, they were boisterous and getting after it again. We knew what we did, we didn’t even have to watch film of that game, we just didn’t handle some things well; it was hard to fathom.
“We weren’t perfect [Saturday], we had too many turnovers, but we got the win, which is what we came to do.”
Pitt actually didn’t get off to a great start, as the Eagles (7-10, 0-4) came out and took an early 10-2 lead, but Artis hit a 3-pointer and that seemed to get the Panthers rolling.
Artis’ shot was a spark and it fueled a 21-5 run by the Panthers that was punctuated by an emphatic two-handed dunk by Michael Young that gave them a 23-17 lead with 8:58 left in the first half.
Freshman guard Damon Wilson, who had four points and four assists in 21 minutes, said the Panthers might have been a little sluggish early but once they got going, they never looked back.
“I think we just settled down and started playing how we usually play,” Wilson said. “Louisville game had us shaken up a little bit, but we settled down and started finding teammates and looking for people because that’s what we do.
“Then it was fun again.”
Boston College made one run at the Panthers and it was sparked by standout guard Eli Carter, who made five 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 31 points.
Carter was able to penetrate into the lane and create plays for himself or open looks for teammates and as a result the Eagles made a 9-1 run and pulled to within 35-34 with 2:47 to play in the half on his deep 3-pointer.
But the Panthers got back on track and finished the half on an 8-2 run and led, 43-36, at halftime thanks to a late jump shot by Sterling Smith.
Boston College coach Jim Christian said the Eagles couldn’t stop the Panthers because they couldn’t match up with them and thus they couldn’t consistently get stops.
And that opened the floor for the rest of the Panthers, which is why they had so many open looks.
He also knew it was going to be a tough assignment to beat the Panthers when he watched them play Louisville because he knew they would be focused and ready to play with an edge coming off a loss.
“We don’t have the size Louisville has,” Christian said. “But it was unfortunate timing for us because as I was watching, I knew they weren’t going to play that poorly again, they were going to come ready to play and they did, which is why they are a good basketball team.
“We were switching a lot and doubling Michael Young because we don’t have a matchup for him. We don’t have someone to guard him when he’s playing [power forward]. We tried to double him.”
Johnson, who had a career high in points, said when teams double Young — who scored only 13 points but had nine assists — it is up to the rest of the Panthers to make sure they get open and hit shots because he’s a good passer out of the post.
He said that Saturday it was his turn to step up and hit shots, but the thing that makes the Panthers tough is they have a lot of players who are capable of stepping up any given day.
“We were able to spread them out,” Johnson said. “There were a lot of gaps, a lot of penetrate-and-kick [opportunities] and it worked out. Teams lose, it happens every day, but only good teams or great teams bounce back.”
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 or Twitter @paulzeise
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