Pitt faced Jacksonville at the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday afternoon looking to build on the momentum created by its victory over St. John’s and close out its non-conference slate with a win. And for once, the Panthers got their wish, as their shots fell with frequency and ease and the Dolphins struggled to keep pace. The result was a 64-55 victory for Pitt.
Early in the game, the Panthers shot the ball with confidence from beyond the arc, and Jamarius Burton opened the scoring with a triple. Femi Odukale would knock down another to give Pitt a 6-2 lead two and a half minutes into the contest. And Mouhamadou Gueye would get in on the action, hitting a jumper and a three that would make it 13-4. The contributions of that trio proved to be a theme of the first half, as Burton, Odukale, and Gueye would be the only players to put points on the board for Pitt in the opening frame.
However, while the Panthers were able to hit enough of their shots to maintain their lead, the Dolphins refused to fall too far behind. Midway through the first half, Jacksonville capitalized on some poor shot selection by Pitt and went on a 7-0 run to pull within three points. But Jamarius Burton ended that run with a steal and a breakaway dunk that made it 20-15, Pitt.
The Dolphins would continue to fight their way back into the game, with Kevion Nolan, Bryce Workman and Tyreese Davis all chipping in points, but three-pointers by Odukale and Burton would keep the visitors at arm’s length. And at the half, Pitt held a 26-24 advantage.
Like the first half, the second half would start with a made three. However, this three came courtesy of Kevion Nolan and put Jacksonville up 27-26 for its first lead of the day. That would mark the start of a more troublesome stretch of play for the Panthers, as missed shots began to pile up, allowing the Dolphins to get back into the game. Burton, Odukale and Gueye would continue to shoulder the scoring load for Pitt as well, and halfway through the second half, the only other Pitt player to contribute was John Hugley, with one point on a free throw.
None of that would matter, though, as Mouhamadou Gueye kept Pitt afloat with a pair of dunks, and Femi Odukale caught fire. And with just under eight minutes remaining on the clock, Pitt would hold a commanding 50-35 lead. With a significant lead in hand, Pitt would cruise to victory, with John Hugley and Femi Odukale padding their point totals with several trips to the foul line. And once all was said and done, Pitt came out on top 64-55.
Femi Odukale matched a career high with 28 points against Jacksonville, and 15 of those points came on a 5-for-7 shooting performance from beyond the arc. Mouhamadou Gueye finished with a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double and chipped in six points on triples after going 2-for-3 from long range. It was the fifth double-double of Gueye’s career and his first in a Pitt uniform. Pitt also got a solid game out of Jamarius Burton, who contributed 12 points. However, Burton was only able to convert on two of his nine three-point shots in the win.
With the victory, Pitt improved to 5-7 on the season as Jacksonville fell to 7-4. The win also came at an opportune time, as the Panthers will face some tougher sledding in the coming weeks as they wade into their ACC schedule. Pitt is currently 0-1 in conference play, with a 57-56 loss to Virginia marring its record. The team is also 1-4 against high-major opponents this season and will need to shape up to get on the right side of .500. Pitt’s next matchup will be against Notre Dame at the Petersen Events Center next Tuesday night.