Wilson-Frame, Toney Lead Panthers Past UCA Bears 97-71


Sarah Cutshall | Senior Staff Photographer

Sophomore forward and center Terrell Brown dunks the ball during the Panthers’ victory against Troy on Monday. Brown scored 8 points in the Panthers’ Thursday evening victory against Central Arkansas.

By Andrew Kelly and Stephen Thompson

Pitt Men’s Basketball remained undefeated with a 97-71 win over the University of Central Arkansas Bears on Thursday night at the Petersen Events Center. After a sloppy, chippy first half, the Panthers used a dominating second half to arrive at their fourth win of the season — something last years’ team didn’t accomplish until Dec. 1.

“I was proud of our team for the way we responded to adversity, ” head coach Jeff Capel said. “It was a very weird game early and it was hard to get a rhythm.”

It was clear the game was going to be physical from the start. Within the first two minutes both teams had two fouls called on them and by the end of their first half, had combined for 25 personal fouls.

In a game that started close, it was fouls that made the difference. Pitt was able to keep the Bears at arm’s length with solid free throw shooting. The Panthers went 26-35 from the stripe, shooting just less than 75 percent.

The Pitt defense opened in zone to counter the size of Central Arkansas, who came into the game with two players on their roster over 7-feet tall.

UCA started power forward SK Shittu measures in at 6-foot 9 — a clear mismatch against Pitt’s starting guards, with the the tallest measuring 6-foot 6. But what Pitt lacked in size, they made up for in physicality on the interior when battling for rebounds, out-rebounding the Bears 38-32.

However, Pitt’s zone defense didn’t work as well as it would have liked. Central Arkansas was able to effectively work the Pitt zone, getting good, open looks at the net, allowing them to take an early lead.

Central Arkansas nailed two 3-pointers as the Panthers tried to find their rhythm. However, first-year guard Au’Diese Toney, who finished the game with 15 points, answered quickly, hitting a shot from deep to put the Panthers back within three.  

After a Central Arkansas basket, first-year guard Xavier Johnson received his first technical foul of the season — the team’s second overall — while bringing the ball up the court.

Capel and the Pitt bench were confused by the call.

“I don’t know,” Capel said. “I didn’t really get [an explanation].”

Despite being forced to sit the rest of the first half due to foul trouble, Johnson put together a strong 12-point performance, accompanied by four rebounds and three assists.

The Bears took advantage of the technical foul and made their free throws, taking a six-point lead four minutes into the game.

Senior guard Jared Wilson-Frame scored his first points of the game with 15:24 left in the first half when he sunk a three and started Pitt’s 13-2 run. Wilson-Frame finished the game as Pitt’s leading scorer with 20.

Toney, Wilson-Frame and graduate guard Sidy N’dir all contributed to the Panther run. The run lasted almost two minutes, until Central Arkansas found the basket again to make the score 24-22 Pitt with 13:48 left in the half.

From there, it was evident Pitt had finally found its rhythm, holding the Bears to three baskets in nine minutes while taking a 32-27 lead.

With 2:31 left to play Brown, sophomore guard Khameron Davis and junior guard Malik Ellison scored six points on three possessions to extended Pitt’s lead to 11, its largest of the half.

Brown would go on to have his best performance of the season, stuffing the stat sheet with eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks.

The Panthers kept their momentum going when McGowens grabbed the rebound from a missed Central Arkansas basket. He heaved a long outlet pass out in front of Wilson-Frame, who promptly dished a behind the back pass to Toney, who finished the layup and was fouled — eventually converting the and-one opportunity.

The Bears didn’t let Pitt have the last shot going into half and stole the momentum when they nailed a buzzer-beater three get within 11 points of the Panthers and made the score 48-37 going into half.

The Panthers came out in a full court press to begin the second half — looking to stay aggressive and extend their double digit halftime lead. A pair of free throws from Toney did just that, but the UCA big men responded quickly.

With the Pitt lead hanging at about 10 points, The Panthers and Bears exchanged baskets on five straight possessions before the first half’s chippiness continued into the second period. An additional 17 fouls were called in the second half of action, many of them offensive or hard fouls at the rim.

Three fouls were called in the first two and a half minutes of the second half, significantly slowing what little offensive flow existed. The Panthers tried to create some offense by pushing in transition, but the Bears kept answering.

Down by 14 points with 12:22 left to play in the game, Central Arkansas made a free throw and a layup cut the Panther lead to 11. But that was the closest the Bears would get.

Wilson-Frame answered with three and Chukwuka and N’Dir followed with layups to give Pitt an 18-point lead — their largest of the game at that point.

The Bears refused to go away, scoring on back to back layups. But the Panthers came right back and regained an 18-point lead.

At just under seven minutes remaining in the game, Pitt’s lead ballooned to 21 and the Panthers didn’t look back.

With 5:00 remaining, both coaches emptied their benches and Pitt cruised to its fourth win.

“I am [interested in seeing the team play on a quick turnaround],” Capel said. “When we were putting together the schedule we did it this way purposely. We may have a moment [like this] in the ACC … We’ll be ready.”

Pitt improves to 4-0 on the season and is next in action on Saturday against North Alabama. Tip off is set for 12 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.