In what may have been Pitt’s most dominant win of the season, the Panthers won their 200th game at the Petersen Events Center with a 71-54 win over the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles.
The Panthers got back to playing traditional Pitt basketball. You know, the kind where they play tough, physical defense, distribute the ball well and make their open shots. They led for the entire game and out-rebounded the Eagles, a team that really thrives on crashing the boards, 28-26.
The Panthers were led in scoring, once again, by Mike Young who scored 16 points with six rebounds. Young’s maturation seems to have reached a new level, consistency, and just in time for the conference schedule.
"Like I've said before, I have played against big guys," said Mike Young. "I am comfortable with it...when I’m at the five versus the four it’s more one-on-one, I've got more space to work, whether I want to go post. (And) like I said there probably isn't one five-man in the country that can guard me as far as playing inside or outside."
It may have taken them 13 games of non-conference play, but the Pitt Panthers seem to finally have a team that has settled into its roles and ready for the season. Just in time, too, as the Panthers open up ACC play with NC State on Saturday.
"I think we can play better, everybody sees that," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We took care of business. We've won six straight with Cameron back."
Dixon used a nine-man rotation, and each player in that rotation scored. It was the type of game where you got the feel that a lot of things are coming together at the right time for the Panthers. The shots were falling and the Panthers exploited the Eagles’ lowly defense all evening.
The Panthers have tried many different combinations and rotations but seem to have found a good mixture of height and speed. Dixon added that he "thought this was a good team to have that against."
In addition to Young’s big night, guards James Robinson and Cameron Wright contributed 12 and 15 points respectively.
Throughout the game the Panthers were able to make that one "extra" pass to get a plethora of open shots.
"Pitt did a good job coming out being aggressive," Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley said. "I thought they did a good job especially the second half in attacking the backboard, they hit timely shots and that’s what good teams do. Pitt is a good team."
This Florida Gulf Coast team may not be the same "Dunk City" team that earned the Eagles their fame back in 2013, but they are a team that will finish among the top of the Atlantic Sun conference and has the potential to make its second NCAA tournament.
The Eagles were led by senior guard Brett Comer who chimed in 10 points and six assists and junior guard Julian DeBose who contributed 12 points.
Comer, who is the active assists leader in Division I, hurt the Eagles with six turnovers against a tough Pitt defense.
"They kinda pressured me," Comer said. "But it was just a lot of bone-head plays from me."
The Panthers face a big road test on Saturday when the face the 10-4 NC State Wolfpack at noon to open up ACC play.