Second half run propels Pitt basketball past Detroit


Michael Young scored a game-high 21 points Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

By Jeremy Tepper / Senior Staff Writer

For a brief moment in the second half, Pitt’s chances of beating Detroit seemed in doubt, with the visitors taking a one point lead.

A 25-5 run, though, would wipe away any shred of uncertainty, as the Panthers defeated the Titans 95-79 Friday night at the Petersen Events Center.

Detroit coach Ray McCallum said that his team couldn’t keep with Pitt’s offense in the second half.

“It ultimately got down to our inability in the second half to stop them,” McCallum said. “The went to another level offensively. Really, we didn’t have any answer for them.”

On the game, Pitt shot 33 of 67, hitting nine threes and converting 20 of 28 free throws. Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon was pleased with his team’s offensive effort.

“I thought our offense was good pretty much the entire game. We were unselfish, we were making the right play,” Dixon said.

Pitt got off to a quick start, hitting the first three baskets of the game to gain a 7-0 lead. Detroit would answer back with a three by Anton Wilson and layup by Josh Mcfolley.

In a stretch a little over a minute later, forward Ryan Luther scored three of Pitt’s next four baskets. The first came on a dunk, which was quickly followed by an up and under layup and an alley oop dunk on a pass from Chris Jones.

Dixon said that Luther’s improvements over the offseason has contributed to his early season play.

“He’s stronger. He finishes better around the basket,” Dixon said. “He’s kind of become a gym rat. He wasn’t that. He thought he was working hard but we showed him what working hard is.”

Specific to the game, Luther said it was his performance on the other end that spearheaded his play on offense.

“Defense got me going first and I just able to make plays when I saw them,” Luther said.

In addition to operating well on the offensive end, Luther was effective on the boards, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds to record his first double double of his career.

Combined with a three pointer from Cameron Johnson, the stretch forced Detroit to call a timeout, as Pitt held a 21-10 lead.

The deficit stayed around the same for the next five minutes, though with a Jaleel Hogan jumper, a Wilson three and two made free throws by Chris Jenkins, Detroit pulled the score to 29-25.

Though Jamel Artis would answer with a layup, another three by Wilson and a layup by Jarod Williams brought the deficit to one.

Wilson gave the Panthers fits in the first half, with 20 points, 12 off of three at the break. He finished scoreless in the second half, though. Young attributed Wilson slow second half to better team defense, not just one particular player.

“We didn’t make an emphasize to stop him, we just made an emphasize to up our team defense,” Young said.

Pitt was able to expand on that lead, with some slick offensive execution, bringing the score to 46-41 at the half.

Detroit cut into that deficit immediately in the second half, as Jenkins converted a layup. Though Artis would answer with a baseline drive layup, Detroit hit two jumpers and a layup to bring the score within one again, 50-49.

With 15:26, Detroit took their first lead of the game via a Jenkins layup, putting the Titans up 53-52. Dixon said offensive miscues, specifically turnovers, assisted in Detroit’s run.

“We were finding ways to give them baskets,” Dixon said.

That lead would be short lived, as Pitt answered with a 12-2 run, led by a dunk and jumper from Young.

Young had a strong game, finishing with 21 points and 8 rebounds off of 7-9 shooting.

After struggling to defend the Titans in the first half, Pitt implemented more zone defense, which helped quell Detroit’s offense. At the time, Pitt had a long lineup on the court, which Dixon added is a big part of an effective zone.

McCallum said there was a direct correlation between his team’s second half performance and Pitt’s zone defense.

“We they went to the zone, it really got us standing, it really took our momentum away. It took our aggressiveness away,” McCallum said.

That usage of zone came as a surprise to McCallum, as he had his team prepare minimally for the scheme.

“I felt like that he had confidence in this team that he was just going to come out and just guard us [in man to man]. In our preparation we had just played against the zone for 35 minutes,” McCallum said.

The Panthers kept rolling from that point on, following up their previous run with a 15-3 run, spearheaded by 8 points from Sheldon Jeter to put Pitt up 79-58.

After going scoreless in the first half, Jeter scored 10 in the second, operating efficiently in just nine total minutes.

Pitt will return to the court on Wednesday, when they face off against Cornell at the Petersen Events Center.

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