The Jeff Capel Era has officially begun. The new Pitt Panthers Basketball Head Coach is hoping to start a new era, coming off a disappointing 2017-18 in which they didn’t win a single game in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) The former Duke Assistant Coach was a breath of fresh air the moment he was drafted and his hopes he can inject that ‘fresh air’ into his group of youngsters in his first season.
Their first test was an exhibition matchup against Pitt-Johnstown and after a slow start, they manhandled the Mountain Cats 78-59 in front of a sparse crowd at the Petersen Events Center. Senior guard Jared-Wilson Frame is one of the constants from last season, kept up his consistency as he was tied for the team lead in scoring with 14, which included a team-leading three 3-pointers.
“First of all, it felt good to play under the lights.” Said Capel “It was a great learning experience for us. I thought our defense was pretty good. I thought we were good on the offensive end. There was a lot of unselfishness on offense, we just must be ready to run for 40 minutes. I thought we started off slow, maybe that’s on me. But I saw a lot of good things.”
The other 2 who led in scoring: Freshmen guards Mark (Son of Pervis) Ellison and Xavier Johnson. Another Freshman guard, Trey McGowens also added 10 as the Panthers displayed the ‘small-ball’ 4-guard game that we should expect to see all season. Jr F Kene Chukwuka led with 6 rebounds (35 as a team) and graduate-transfer G Sidy N’Dir led with 6 assists.
The Mountain Cats put up a fight as they were 6-15 from 3-point range. G John Wise led with 16 points and 6 rebounds. F Marcin WisZomirski had 13 points and G Fred Mulbah had 12.
The Panthers will now prepare for regular-season action Tuesday as they will take on Youngstown State at the Petersen Events Center.
“Overall a really good experience for us.” Said Capel “Another good practice for us, now we have to get ready for when it really counts.”
Notes: Pitt and Pitt-Johnstown wore “Stronger than Hate” shirts prior to tonight’s game in honor of the Tree of Life Synagogue victims. A moment of silence was also done before the game.
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PITTSBURGH – Four players scored in double figures for the University of Pittsburgh men’s basketball team en route to a 78-59 exhibition win against Pitt-Johnstown Thursday night at the Petersen Events Center.
The win moved the Panthers to 60-5 all-time in exhibition matchups, which includes a 3-0 mark against the Mountain Cats. The victory was also Pitt’s 36th consecutive exhibition win.
The Panthers saw three players notch 14 points apiece in senior Jared Wilson-Frame, redshirt junior Malik Ellison and freshman Xavier Johnson, with freshman Trey McGowens also adding 10 points in the contest. Graduate transfer Sidy N’Dir dished out a team-high six assists in the game, while junior Kene Chukwuka led the squad with six rebounds.
Three players scored in double figures for Pitt-Johnstown, with junior Josh Wise dropping a team-high 16 points. Sophomore Marcin Wiszormirski followed with 13 points, while freshman Fred Mulbah added 12 points and five assists in the contest.
The Panthers displayed a very aggressive defensive scheme throughout the game, often pressing the ball handler out of makes and sporadically trapping at midcourt. The strategy led to 14 steals for Pitt and 21 overall turnovers for the Mountain Cats.
Offensively, the Panthers finished the game 30-of-58 (51.7 percent) from the field and 9-25 (36.0 percent) from beyond the arc. Pitt-Johnstown would finish the contest with a 24-61 (39.3 percent) mark from the field.
Pitt scored the first points of the game as Johnson drove to the hoop, laying the ball in for his first bucket as a Panther. Pitt’s offense would take some time to finds its rhythm following the early score, with the Mountain Cats jumping out to a 10-7 lead just over four minutes into the game. From there, it was all Pitt, as the Panthers would use a 12-0 run to jump out to a lead they would never relinquish.
The teams would trade baskets for the next three minutes, bringing the score to 23-16 in the Panthers favor, before Pitt would use another run to increase its lead, with freshman Au’Diese Toney capping off the quick 9-0 spurt with a three and free throw to put the game at 32-16 with 4:32 left in the half. The Panthers would eventually head into the break with a 44-24 advantage over Pitt-Johnstown.
The Mountain Cats played much more competitive basketball in the second half, trading baskets with Pitt most of the way. With 10 minutes left in the game, the Panthers lead stood at 59-40. Pitt would use one last late surge to separate themselves from the Mountain Cats, using a 12-2 spurt to take its largest lead of the game and put the score at 71-42, with Wilson-Frame contributing five points off of a mid-range jumper and three-point make. The squads would go back-and-forth to end the contest, with Pitt eventually settling for the 78-59 victory.
Pitt: The Panthers earn a win in their first game under new head coach Jeff Capel. Pitt will look to carry its momentum from the exhibition victory into its season opener against Youngstown State.
Pitt-Johnstown: The Mountain Cats were able to test themselves against Division I competition, and will be able to make adjustments heading into their DII season-opener.
Pitt: The Panthers will open the regular season Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. as they host Youngstown State at the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt-Johnstown: The Mountain Cats will head to Indiana, Pa., to compete in the 2018 Indiana University (PA) Division II Tournament. www.pittsburghpanthers.com