It may have taken a few possession for The Pittsburgh Panthers (8-3) to find their rhythm, but this one was never in doubt, as Pitt rolled to an easy 78-43 victory over the Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (1-10) on Saturday afternoon.
A 5-0 run to start the game by the Hawks was answered with a 26-3 run by the Panthers that put the game away early. Given the way the season as evolved, one might assume it was the Xavier Johnson show from the start. While the freshman guard did score the teams first basket, Pitt used a balanced approach, offensively. Multiple players touched on the ball on every possession.
After the game, Jared Wilson-Frame didn’t directly address the notion of a balanced attack, but talked about the teams emphasis of getting back to being a team during their week of practice. He said, “We just had to get back to being a team.” He later added, “We had high energy today, and we were playing really unselfish.”
While UMES didn’t present the same kind of challenge that the Iowa Hawkeyes or the West Virginia Mountaineers did, it was clear that Pitt used their week off trying to find ways to get everyone besides Johnson involved.
Defensively, the Panthers applied a ton of on-ball pressure and were aggressive in filling passing lanes. The result: The Hawks shot just 21.4% (6-28) and committed 7 first half turnovers.
Honestly, not much to say about the second half. Pitt opened the second half on a 9-0 run, and kept rolling. UMES added a basket here and there but they mostly struggled on both ends. On more than a few occasions, the Panthers doubled-up on the Hawks.
Pitt was led by Johnson’s 12 points on an efficient 4-6 from the floor. He also paced the team with 4 assists. Wilson-Frame (11) and Terrell Brown (10) also reached double-digits in the scoring column. Wilson-Frame led the team with 11 rebounds on route to his first double-double of the season, and his second as a Panther (1/27 against Syracuse).
On his performance today, Wilson-Frame said: “I am an energy guy and I play with high energy, and when I do that it’s beneficial for our team and for myself.”
Head coach Jeff Capel was very complementary of Wilson-Frame’s performance, least impressive was his actual stat-line: “More than anything, his voice.”
Capel also spoke about the positive minutes that sophomore guard Khameron Davis provided: “He’s a guy that I trust. He’s a guy that I believe in.”
The Hawks were led by Tyler Jones and AJ Cheeseman, both with 16 points, tied for the game-high.
The Panthers will have a few days off before they face the New Orleans Privateers (4-4) next Thursday (12/20) at home.
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