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Pitt men’s basketball ekes out 81-73 win over Penn State

Pitt+F+Michael+Young+led+the+Panthers+in+scoring+for+the+ninth+game+in+a+row+with+29+points+against+Penn+State.+Meghan+Sunners+%7C+Senior+Staff+Photographer%0A
Pitt F Michael Young led the Panthers in scoring for the ninth game in a row with 29 points against Penn State. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt F Michael Young led the Panthers in scoring for the ninth game in a row with 29 points against Penn State. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt F Michael Young led the Panthers in scoring for the ninth game in a row with 29 points against Penn State. Meghan Sunners | Senior Staff Photographer

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

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The Pitt men’s basketball team picked up another win Saturday afternoon, but again the Panthers made it much harder on themselves than it needed to be.

Pitt (8-2) allowed only 22 points in the first half against the Penn State Nittany Lions (6-5) while jumping out to a 20-point halftime lead. The Nittany Lions then outscored the Panthers 51-39 in the second half, but Pitt held on for an 81-73 victory in the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

The game was almost a mirror image of several of Pitt’s early-season victories, especially the team’s 84-79 win Wednesday night against Buffalo. In that one, the Panthers led by as many as 26 points in the first half, then allowed the Bulls to pull within one late in the game before winning by five.

Penn State got the scoring started on a 3-pointer by guard Shep Garner, but the Panthers responded with a 13-0 run to take an early 10-point lead.

Senior guard Chris Jones started things off with a pair of layups to get Pitt on the board, then senior forward Michael Young and sophomore guard Cameron Johnson drained back-to-back threes to cap off the run. The Panthers then stretched the lead to 16 after a pair of threes from seniors Jamel Artis and Sheldon Jeter and a layup from true freshman forward Corey Manigault.

Young then hit a three of his own for the Panthers and followed it up with a jumper, keeping Pitt’s lead in double digits. The Panthers led 42-22 at the half on 12 points apiece from Artis and Young.

Pitt kept adding to its lead to start the second half, pushing its advantage to 50-26 after threes from Johnson and junior forward Ryan Luther. From there, the Nittany Lions scored seven straight points as they began to slowly chip away.

Another 3-pointer by Artis gave the Panthers a seemingly comfortable 63-46 lead with 8:44 to play, but this one was still far from over.

A layup by Penn State guard Josh Reaves followed by a pair of free throws from guard Tony Carr cut Pitt’s lead to single digits for the first time since the 10:08 mark of the first half. Two more free throws from Nittany Lions forward Payton Banks made it a seven-point game at 67-60 with just under five minutes to play.

Young answered with a layup and two free throws of his own to give the Panthers an 11-point lead, but a layup by Carr and a 3-pointer and free throw from Garner made it 71-66 with 1:50 left.

Jeter quickly responded to Garner’s free throw with a 3-pointer of his own, then a free throw from Artis and two more from Young made it an 11-point game again with 41 seconds to play. Penn State never came closer than seven the rest of the way and Pitt eked out an 81-73 win.

Young, the ACC’s leading scorer, led the Panthers for the ninth consecutive game with 29 points along with nine rebounds. He is now averaging an even 23 points per game.

Pitt will have a week off before returning home to host the Rice Owls at the Petersen Events Center at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17.

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Pitt men’s basketball ekes out 81-73 win over Penn State