It is tough to place a price on veteran leadership, the Panthers have been learning that throughout the season as they continue to improve as senior Cameron Wright begins to acclimate himself with the team.
Wright missed the first eight games of the season with a foot injury and seems to be shaking off the rust that accompanied it and contributing just as the Panthers had hoped that he would. With the Panthers being such a young team it is tough to really assess just how vital of a role Wright plays with the team.
"I tell our guys, we are 3-0 with Cameron back," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "That is how we have to look at things."
The senior guard contributed 14 points in 34 minutes on the court and really helped maintain the tempo of the game for the Panthers.
"I had my first solid week of practice for the first time this year," said Wright. "My teammates did a great job in trying to get me acclimated, and they had a lot of confidence in me, passing me the ball, and tonight I was able to knock down some shots."
In addition to Wright’s stellar play, sophomore forwards Mike Young scored 16 points with eight rebounds and Jamel Artis who contributed 20 points with 8 rebounds to lead the Panthers in scoring.
Young in particular shot the ball well, shooting a perfect 6-6 from the field and really helped pace the offense all evening. While this is not a surprise, it is a welcomed sight to see Young play like this on a more consistent basis.
While it is a tough thing to do, taking each game one at a time might be the best approach with this Pitt basketball team. This game, the Panthers defeated the Manhattan Jaspers 65-56 in what certainly was not a pretty win, but a win nonetheless.
While Manhattan is now 2-7 and not going to make too much noise in the MAAC, they are a program that has been on the rise recently and given how Pitt has looked thus far this season, no game is an easy-win.
Pitt was spared with how poorly Manhattan played all evening. The Jaspers surrendered 20 turnovers which led to 23 Pitt points. While some of the turnovers were forced by Pitt’s defense a large percentage of them came from all around sloppy play. They cannot rely on their opponents to make so many mistakes throughout the season, it’s just not going to happen.
The Panthers heated up in the second half and the offense started to move-on past a fierce Manhattan full-court press. Artis played a huge role in breaking that press at mid-court which led to a lot of easy baskets for Pitt.
"I thought we improved as the game went on, we got better," said Dixon. "We handled that unique defense that you do not see a lot."
The Panthers also continue to distribute the ball pretty unselfishly, 20 of the team’s 23 baskets were assisted.
The Panthers are now 7-3 with three more winnable games on their current home stand. While the traditional assumption is that Pitt will sit at 10-3 heading into the ACC, it is important to take these games one at a time.