Dixon notches 300th career win against Florida State


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

Jamie Dixon was denied his 300th career win in the Pitt men’s basketball team’s last game against Clemson.

But he would not be denied twice in a row.

In a game it desperately needed, Pitt evened its conference record with a 73-64victory, and the team did it largely with something it lacked last game: rebounding.

Sophomore forward Mike Young led all Pitt scorers with 16 points and also contributed 12 rebounds, with teammate Chris Jones chipping in 15 as well. The Panthers combined to out-rebound Florida State 39-31, a stark contrast from their last game against Clemson, in which they lost the battle on the boards by 17.

“It felt great, these last two practices have been physical,” Young said. “Last game out was embarrassing…I took it personal.”

The win should serve as a confidence builder for the Panthers after a disappointing start to their second season in the ACC. Pitt, which had been picked to finish fifth in the conference in the preseason, finds itself with a slightly less difficult road to ACC relevance with the win.

“I thought they played with a sense of urgency,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It seemed like this game was very, very important to them.”

Pitt has opened the conference season with a fairly easy schedule, and will soon have to prove its worth in the ACC as the Panthers play No. 4 Duke and No. 6 Louisville back to back next week.

In their last time out against Clemson, Jamie Dixon’s side was thoroughly outplayed in the paint and on the boards. They wouldn’t face an easier challenge in the Seminoles, who sport three players more than seven feet tall. Pitt’s tallest player, center Joseph Uchebo, is only 6’10”.

For much of the season, Pitt has relied on Young to do most of the dirty work down low. If they were to have sustained success on the glass against a physically-imposing opponent, the Panthers would have to rely more on a team rebounding concept, rather than one or two players cleaning up after a missed shot.

The team showed improvement in that department in the first half, as it hung with Florida State on the boards, matching the Seminoles with 14 rebounds apiece.

Florida State features a guard-heavy scoring lineup, as its backcourt contributes nearly 35 points per game. Guard Devon Bookert scored ten for the Seminoles in the first half, equaling his season average in only twenty minutes of play.

Both teams became heated late in the half, when Seminole Jacquez Smith fouled Cameron Wright hard near the scorer’s table after the Pitt guard knocked the ball away. Wright then proceeded to confront Smith, leading to shoving from both sides, but the referees did not award technical fouls.

Young led all Panthers at the half with ten points and seven rebounds, responding to a quiet outing in his last game against Clemson.

Dixon made several changes to the lineup in the game, including a surprising amount of playing time for senior Aron Phillips-Nwankwo, who provided a defensive spark in the first half, and even contributed five straight points offensively in the second, sending the Oakland Zoo into hysterics.

“It was a good feeling to be recognized, but it was a way better feeling knowing I contributed to a win,” Nwankwo said.

Young went on to say that he always knew Nwankwo had the talent in him, and mentioned going up against the senior in practice as a key reason he had such a successful game on the boards.

Defensively, Pitt switched back and forth from its usual man-to-man to a 2-3 zone, which kept the Seminoles off balance and was a central reason the Panthers took a double digit lead early in the second half. Florida State shot 55 percent in the first half, but that number quickly dropped as the Seminoles shot only 32 percent in the second.

“We had to change things up in the second half,” Dixon said. “They came out firing.”

The Panthers went on a 24-12 run to begin the half, largely due to the Seminoles’ inability to score. Pitt took advantage of missed shot attempts, creating easy fast-break shots for Chris Jones, Artis and Young.

Florida State forward Phil Cofer seemed to be the team’s only viable offensive option during the stretch, and he finished the game as the leading scorer in the game with 21 points.

Pitt struggled at the free throw line late as it tried to seal the game. James Robinson missed four straight, and the team failed to connect on five in a row as a whole.

Despite the misses from the line, the Panthers held on with excellent on-ball defense, and pushed their lead back to double digits to finish the game.

Pitt next faces Georgia Tech on Saturday at the Petersen Events Center.