Pitt couldn't defeat Purdue in the program's heavily anticipated non-conference matchup earlier this season. And with the game against Gonzaga being canceled, the Panthers didn't have much more in the way of opportunities against good teams outside of the ACC. But the team passed its test against a very good Davidson team with flying colors today, easily winning 94-69.
This had the look of a close game beforehand. The line favored Pitt, but only by a few points. And on a neutral court facing a team with the third-leading scorer in the nation, the Panthers looked to be in for a tough game. Yeah, that didn't really work out.
As I said before, the Purdue loss wasn't something that should disqualify Pitt as being a good team. They may not be in the nation's elite, but make no mistake - this is a pretty good team. Winning by 25 on a neutral court against what was a 7-1 Davidson team is impressive. Davidson's lone loss coming into the game was against No. 9 North Carolina, who defeated them by 33 but at home. What Pitt did on the neutral court was probably about the equivalent of that.
As usual, it was the Michael Young show as the forward had 24 points and six boards in the game. Jamel Artis, who had really picked things up lately, had a quiet game with only six points and five turnovers, too. For Pitt to win as handily as they did with only one of their stars playing well is some sort of statement. They needed others to step up, and they did. James Robinson had 13 points, seven boards, and six assists. Sterling Smith and Chris Jones each had 12, and Smith was 4-5 from three-point range. Sheldon Jeter added a near double-double with eight points and eight rebounds. Even often criticized Alonzo Nelson-Ododa had one of his most productive games with six points and six boards.
All of that sort of underscores why I think this is a dangerous team. There is so much quality depth here and even when someone like Artis struggles a little, several other guys are capable of stepping up.
Before the game, I pointed out that Davidson is really a team that is going to live or die by three. They were right at their season average of 29 attempts today from downtown, but made only six. The shots weren't falling for them from the outside and when that doesn't happen, blowouts like these tend to happen. Leading scorer Jack Gibbs had 19 points, but he was an uncharacteristic 0-6 from three-point range and was also harassed into four turnovers.
We should be clear here - Davidson is not a Top 25 team. They were crushed by North Carolina and now by Pitt in their only two big tests to date. However, at 7-2, they are a solid team and whenever you win by that many points on a neutral court, it's a great showing. Pitt may not be among the elite yet, but it's safe to say they are a good team with plenty of upside when you consider that these guys are still learning to play together with so many new players.
Pitt still has much to prove and until they get into the conference games, we still are sort of in a wait and see mode. But today's win gives fans a little more reason to be excited and is another testament that this looks like a pretty good team.