Unlike the first game, there were no dramatics or overtime, for the Pitt Panthers, it was just a throwback to how they used to treat their non-conference opponents as they welcomed the Gardner-Webb Runnin’Bulldogs 99-80 in the 2016 2K Classic which benefits the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Panthers continued to benefit from new HC Kevin Stallings new offense and had five players in double-figures, led by F Mike Young (who didn’t start) and G Cameron Johnson, who each had 18 points apiece. Johnson was also the top 3-point scorer as he went 4-4 from beyond the arc.
F Sheldon Jeter added 14; Jamel Artis had 11 and G Chris Jones had 10 for the Panthers. Jeter also led with 13 rebounds and Artis had six assists as the Panthers start 2-0 under the new head coach.
“Sheldon Jeter did some good things tonight and Cameron Johnson made some good shots tonight.”-Said Stallings. When asked about Young not starting he replied “Just a minor infraction. He started in the second half. It is just one of those things.”
Gardner-Webb began the scoring as G Laquincy Rideau’s layup gave them a 2-0 lead. Then the Panthers responded quickly when G Cameron Johnson hit a 3-pointer to give them a 3-2 lead. The scoring would continue for the Panthers as they got baskets from F Sheldon Jeter, and Jamel Artis extending Pitt’s lead to 7-2. After Gardner-Webb had closed the lead to 7-5, the Panthers caught fire and scored 10 points, and even though the Running Bulldogs kept a slight pace, Pitt led 17-10.
The Panthers would continue to add to their lead as G Jonathan Milligan, F Ryan Luther and Johnson helped make it 30-14 with over 8 minutes left in the first half. Jeter, Artis, and Young would extend their lead to 40-20 with over 4 minutes left. Rideau would continue to help chip away at Pitt’s lead with added free throws and points, but the Panthers would only let them get so close. Jeter, Johnson, and Artis would help extend Pitt’s lead to 52-32 at halftime.
In the second half, Gardner-Webb began the scoring as Rideau added two free throws before Artis started Pitt’s scoring as they continued to add to their lead. The Panthers had led 63-40 before Gardner-Webb kept chipping away. Baskets by Rideau, G Liam O’Rielly, and F Tyrell Nelson made sure Pitt didn’t get too complacent, but the Panthers continued to pull away as Young hit a 3-pointer, then Jeter, Wilson, and Luther helped extend the Panthers lead to 72-48 with over 12 minutes left.
Young and Jeter would then help extend the Panthers lead to 80-59. With over 6 minutes left, the Panthers led 86-61 which made it easy for them to switch to ‘cruise control,’ but that opened the door for the Running Bulldogs to well..keep running. Baskets by Nelson and O’Rielly kept Pitt’s lead from going over 20 points. Then Jeter and Milligan helped get the Panthers to within one point of 100 as they secured the 99-80 victory.
For Gardner-Webb, Rideau led all scorers with 21 points and led his team with eight rebounds and six assists. G David Efianayi added 20, and O’Rielly 14 as the Running Bulldogs fall to 0-2.
Ray’s Take: On one hand, it was good to see Pitt blow out the opponent, but on the other hand, it looked like the players, fans were pretty bored with the game especially in the second half. But then again, I think Gardner-Webb was the only team to show interest as they kept hustling and scoring. If they had more time, they might’ve caught Pitt, who looked like they were done for the night after allowing Rideau, Nelson and the rest of Gardner-Webb in the paint for layups and jumpers. To be honest, I feel like the Panthers should’ve won this game by 30 and had over 100 points. Yes, I know that Stallings sat his starters for those who probably won’t get as much playing time the rest of the season, but that was when Pitt staggered into the 90-point range with the regulars still on the court. They have to keep this in mind: Playing like that in ACC Conference play will come back to bite them.
I liked the play of Johnson, who truly benefited from not being in foul trouble. He should’ve had over 20 points, but he cooled down in the second half. Young didn’t even start and almost had 20 points. He’s truly the heart and souls of this team. I also liked the fact that 300-point Rozelle Nix got in the mix as he ended up with four rebounds and a block in 4 minutes of playing time. His presence on the court gave life to an unusually quiet Oakland Zoo.
Looking ahead: The Panthers will now head to Madison Square Garden to finish up the 2K Classic by taking on SMU November 17th with the winner taking on the Michigan/Marquette winner in the Championship November 18th.
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