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Wilson leads scorers as Pitt topples Central Arkansas, 100-47

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Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

By Jeremy Tepper / Senior Staff Writer

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After watching his team lose by 53 points, Central Arkansas coach Russ Pennell was blunt about their performance.

“We just ran into a buzzsaw today,” Pennell said. “Everything they did was good, and everything we did was bad.”

With a wide talent gap over a now 1-7 Central Arkansas team, the Pitt men’s basketball team (6-1) toppled the Bears 100-47 at the Petersen Events Center Sunday, marking the Panthers’ first 100-point effort since 2007 against Houston Baptist.

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon recognized the talent difference after the game, mentioning the focus in games like this is team growth.

“It’s an opponent we obviously should have beaten, and we did do that,” Dixon said. “Every game has purpose, every game has an opportunity to get better, and we got better at some things.”

Pitt clicked on offense, shooting 54 percent on the game with nine makes from the three point range. The team shared the ball well, too, assisting on 29 of its 37 made baskets.

Chris Jones, who came off the bench to score 13 points, noted that Pitt’s practices have been passionate recently, which contributed to the strong performance today.

“It starts in practice. We’ve really been picking up the intensity there, and I think it’s carried over into the games,” Jones said.

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Pitt scored first, when Jamel Artis found Rafael Maia inside for a layup a little over two minutes into the game.

That bucket spurred the start of a 17-6 run for Pitt in the first seven and a half minutes of the game. Michael Young and Artis keyed the run, scoring 11 combined points in the span.

In efforts to disrupt the Panthers in the beginning of the game, Central Arkansas pressed Pitt’s offense starting at about three quarters court. It proved unsuccessful, as Pitt quickly broke the Bears’ press with long passes.

Pitt got whatever basket it wanted on offense the rest of the half with smooth passing and shot making. Pitt’s assist rate in the first half — collecting 16 assists on its 18 buckets — showed how well the offense executed.

“All the shots we took, if you look at the film, will be wide open shots or layups,” Jones said.

Central Arkansas, meanwhile, did penetrate Pitt’s defense, but it struggled with turnovers and with finishing decent looks in the half. The Bears turned the ball over 10 times in the first half. They shot 31.7 percent from the field on the game, as Pitt implemented man to man defense instead of mixing in the zone.

“I think those guys needed some minutes at man. It’s an opportunity for us to work at some things,” Dixon said.

Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Pitt’s bench players started to see playing time early, with freshman guard Damon Wilson scoring Pitt’s last nine points of the half. He finished with 20 points off of seven of nine shooting in 20 minutes.

Wilson attributed his standout performance to Pitt’s offensive system and team-oriented mindset.

“Just letting it come to me and playing through the system,” Wilson said. “It’s just so easy because everybody’s so unselfish.”

At the break, Pitt led 50-23, hitting 18 of its 32 shots, six of which came from behind the arc.

Much like the first half, Pitt started the scoring off in the second with a Young lay-in off an assist from James Robinson. It was the start of a 17-4 run for Pitt to start the half with Pitt taking a 40-point lead with 14:03 left with a layup by Artis.

Artis was Pitt’s second leading scorer, knocking down six of nine shots and hitting two threes for 17 total points in 19 minutes.

Starting shooting guard Sterling Smith also hit a three in the run, one of his three on the day. Smith has excelled in the area, making 14-23 from three this season.

Pitt was also dominant on the boards, out-rebounding Central Arkansas 52-34. Still, Dixon sees plenty of room for improvement in that area.

“We’re not where we need to be,” Dixon said.

As the half progressed, Pitt hit a 79-29 lead when Chris Jones found Sheldon Jeter for an alley oop at the 10 minute mark.

Pitt will take the court again 7 p.m. Friday when it faces off against Eastern Washington at the Petersen Events Center.

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Wilson leads scorers as Pitt topples Central Arkansas, 100-47