Pitt's men's basketball team played its second game of the season and this one went a little smoother than the team's opener, which was a nail-biter. Facing Gardner-Webb tonight, the Panthers got out to an early lead and were ahead comfortably all night.
The offense was the big difference and Pitt shot the ball extremely well, making about 54% of their shots. That was light years better than what they did against Eastern Michigan when they were below 40%. If you needed another indication of how much better the offense was, Pitt scored more points than they did in the last game that went to two overtimes.
For whatever reason, Michael Young didn't start. He checked in quickly, so it may have been a minor disciplinary thing. Or perhaps Stallings wanted to see how Ryan Luther looked with the starters. It didn't matter at all. Young still led the team in scoring with 18 points while grabbing seven boards.
Two guys aside from Young really stood out tonight. Cameron Johnson had a huge game with 18 points on 7-8 shooting, including a perfect 4-4 from three-point range. Sheldon Jeter also got into the act with 14 points, a team-high 13 rebounds, and three steals. If Pitt gets Johnson shooting as well as he did from the outside, that simply makes them a much stronger team. The combo of Young and Artis is good, but if Pitt gets Johnson and Jeter going, too, that makes them a very dangerous team.
Two other mentions in terms of debuts tonight. True freshman Corey Manigault got his first bit of playing time and looked mostly okay in limited minutes. Sure, the Panthers could use him in some early games, then play the game that so many schools do by declaring a season-long injury to secure his redshirt. But this team is just not very deep so I would expect him to play this year. And as I've said before, it's just wise to get him time when they can since he will be a key player next year with so many guys moving on.
Also getting his first bit of playing time was Rozelle Nix. Nix played about the last five minutes of the game and grabbed some rebounds. I wasn't real encouraged by the way he moved around. He can rebound a little and he also had a big block. But I don't know that he fits in too much for anything more than a few minutes a game. I would not expect much from him this year and if he becomes a guy that even just comes in and gives them a spark from time to time, I would consider that a win.
Quietly contributing were the guards off the bench, and that was good to see. Jonathan Milligan, Damon Wilson, and Justice Kithcart scored 18 points. Milligan had ten and Wilson quietly had a good game with five points and four rebounds in limited minutes.
Next up, the Panthers head to Madison Square Garden for the big game against SMU on Thursday.