Pitt needed to make a late run, but defeated Marquette in the 2K Classic, 78-75, on Friday night.
I said it on Twitter, but it bears repeating here. Marquette is not a great team but that was a great win for the Panthers. Pitt really needed to win one of these two 2K Classic games and a loss here would have really made it hard to believe this team could do much this year.
The Panthers didn't play a strong game, in my opinion. They did shoot 50% from the field, but had a lot of offensive lulls, falling behind by 15 points in the first half. Defensively, it seemed no one could stay with their man. The Panthers also took way too many three-point shots, connecting on only four of 17 of them and shot under 70% from the free throw line.
The good news is how the team finished the game.
Pitt took a lot of heat from fans during the game, and rightfully so. But the Panthers also showed a lot of grit at the end in closing out a much-needed win.
The end was great, but if you're looking for a difference maker, it was from around the 13-minute mark in the second half to the 10-minute mark. Pitt trailed by seven and Michael Young simply took over. He scored the game's next ten points, grabbed two rebounds, and added a block. In all, Young had a career-high 30 points to go along with seven boards. He also had four blocks and was a perfect 7-7 from the free throw line. Pitt doesn't have a ton of consistency beyond Young and Jamel Artis, but Young is pretty good, folks. Other guys contributed to the win. Artis had 21 points and a game-high eight boards, after all. But Young was the guy that got the team back in the game and pushed them forward.
We again saw not much from the bench and this was, as I expect we'll see a lot this year, again the Young-Artis show. Pitt got a strong game from Ryan Luther, who had eight points, five boards, and two blocks, but got next to nothing from the rest of the reserves. Aside from Luther, the rest of the bench was 0-4 (with two points coming on free throws) with three turnovers.
Pitt is just very, very thin this year and any sort of injury to Young or Artis would hurt a lot. Sure, you put guys in and they'll contribute something. To some degree, it's the old Cedric Ceballos effect - a guy that plays enough minutes with no other contributors is capable of a big game. But realistically, I don't know who, beyond the top six guys, could be counted for very much right now.
I still don't know exactly what to expect from this team yet. For much of the game, Pitt appeared headed towards a loss and they really needed to turn in a strong second-half to win. I commend them for that, but still have serious doubts about how the offense operates without a true point guard, how the team can limit defensive breakdowns, how they get more out of the bench, etc.
Those questions are all valid and are reasons why Pitt could struggle this season. But the way they pulled out the game against Marquette with their backs up against the road was a great thing to see. Sure, playing in the championship game would have been preferred and the team could have done more. But at the end of the day, they secured a win against a decent team on a neutral court. Hard to complain about that.