Panthers handle Niagara for first win of season

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Panthers handle Niagara for first win of season

By Dan Sostek / Assistant Sports Editor

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In a game that the team dominated from the very start, the Pitt Panthers’ men’s basketball team easily defeated the Niagara Purple Eagles, winning by a final score of 78-45.

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon went with a starting lineup of James Robinson, Chris Jones, Jamel Artis, Mike Young and Joseph Uchebo, with three of the five (Jones, Artis and Uchebo) making their first career collegiate start.

Uchebo would score the first points of the season for the Panthers, as he made the second of two free throws 17 seconds into the opening quarter.

The made free throw marked the beginning of a 32-4 run to start the game, culminating in a dunk by sophomore guard Josh Newkirk with 7:37 remaining in the half.

Niagara barely managed to trim the lead heading into the half, as the Pitt entered the intermission holding on to a comfortable 46-22 lead.

The Panthers were never seriously threatened in the second half, as Niagara struggled to do anything more than trade baskets with Pitt, who would easily hold on for the 33-point victory.

Offensively, Pitt was led by Artis, who tallied 14 points– 12 coming in the first half– to go along with four rebounds and four assists. Newkirk contributed 12 points and five assists, while Jones set a career high in scoring with 10.

Newcomers Sheldon Jeter and Cameron Johnson also made an impact for the Panthers. Jeter, a transfer from Vanderbilt, scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds, while Johnson, a freshman, totalled 11 points, a rebound and a steal in his collegiate debut.

The Purple Eagles struggled from the field throughout, shooting just 26.1 percent on the game. The lone bright spot for Niagara was sophomore Emile Blackman, who scored 16 points for the visitors.

Despite the win, the Panthers suffered a blow prior to tip-off, as the team announced that junior forward Durand Johnson was suspended for the entire season, for reasons undisclosed. Johnson missed a large part of the 2013-2014 season with a torn ACL.

Pitt will continue their non-conference slate of games on Sunday, as it prepares to take on the Samford Bulldogs at the Petersen Events Center as part of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. Tip off is set for 1 p.m.

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