Pitt got back on track on Monday night with an 81-68 win over Chaminade. With the victory, they will advance to play the winner of BYU and San Diego State on Tuesday night.
Mike Young was clearly the best player on the court with 27 points and 15 rebounds. What was particularly refreshing was to not only see the team repeatedly go to him when many players weren't shooting well, but also the fact that he went strong to the basket on several occasions. He knew he had to be the leader and didn't shy away from it. Young is unquestionably the team's best player right now.
Derrick Randall, often a punching bag for fans, had an unreal game with 11 points and 21 rebounds, which was a Maui Invitational record. Randall has shown zero improvement in three seasons of college basketball and while I'm still incredibly skeptical of his game, 21 rebounds against anybody is a supreme achievement. The longer Joseph Uchebo (more on him in a minute) goes without being a factor, the more opportunity will be there for Randall. Again, I'm far from sold on him right now. But Pitt has a gaping hole at center and Randall should and will get his shot.
Those two strong games from Young and Randall aside, Pitt still didn't deliver the dominant performance you'd expect from a team like Pitt facing a Division II game. The Panthers did hold several big leads, but all in all, you can tell this team still has much to work on. Pitt crushed Chaminade on the boards, unofficially 51-17. But the Panthers also had 15 turnovers (Chaminade had 13) and allowed their opponent to shoot better than 50% from the field. Defense continued to be an issue and if Pitt doesn't get better there, they're really going to struggle against better teams.
The shooting got better as the game went on, but several Pitt players did next to nothing offensively. Starters Chris Jones and Joseph Uchebo were scoreless and Jamel Artis had only four points. Four points from three starters is almost always a recipe for disaster, and fortunately for Pitt, they had Mike Young and got 30 combined points from Randall, Josh Newkirk, and Cam Johnson, who continues to show he can be a key player this season.
Pitt got a break with Chaminade in the opener. They are now in the winner's side of the bracket and can't finish any lower than fourth. Chaminade, of course, is the weakest opponent in the field and by getting them in the first game, Pitt has assured itself of a good chance to face a ranked San Diego State team and/or even possibly No. 3 Arizona.
Regardless of how things end up for Pitt, playing in the tournament is just excellent NCAA Tournament experience. Playing on back to back nights should help with the survive and advance mentality needed in the postseason.
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