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Johnson and Young score 18 as Pitt rolls by Gardner-Webb 99-80

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Pitt shot 50 percent from 3-point range to cruise past Gardner-Webb, 99-80, Monday at the Petersen Events Center in the 2K Classic.

Nine years ago, Gardner-Webb did the impossible.

The Big South squad shocked then No. 22 Kentucky at Rupp Arena 84-68 in Billy Gillispie’s second game as head coach of the Wildcats.

Skip ahead to present day, Coach Kevin Stallings’ second game at Pitt didn’t follow suite, as his Panthers handled business against the Bulldogs, winning 99-80 at Petersen Events Center.

Now 2-0 on the season, the Panthers shot 35 of 65 (53.8%) from the field and a knocked down half of their 3-point attempts going 13 of 26.

Both Cam Johnson and Michael Young finished with 18 points a-piece, while Young corralled 7 rebounds in just 15 minutes coming off the bench in a rare role reversal, in which forward Ryan Luther got the starting nod in his stead.  Luther finished with 8 points and 6 rebounds in 20 minutes.

Pitt used a 20-8 run to distance themselves from the Bulldogs with just over five minutes left in the first half.  The Panthers rattled off four straight 3-pointers, including two from Johnson in that dominant stretch.

“Once we get it going like that we can be really dangerous,” said Johnson.  “We showed during that stretch that if we focus and come together as a team we can be tough.”

The Panthers held Gardner-Webb to just 31 of 73 (42.5%) from the field, allowing just four 3-pointers.

The combo of guards Laquincy Rideau and David Efianayi were the two silver linings for the Bulldogs, who together combined for 53 points, including a game-best 23 for Rideau.

“I thought Pitt was terrific tonight,” said Gardner-Webb head Coach Tim Craft.  “They were making shots, they put five guys on the floor and spread you out.  We weren’t nearly good enough defensively to keep it close.  That’s a lot of pressure on your defense when they have all of those guys that can shoot jumpers.”

The other end of the spectrum wasn’t so kind on Pitt’s performance.  That voice on the other end was Coach Stallings.

“I thought we missed an opportunity to get better tonight.  I was disappointed in our intensity, concentration and focus.  While we did do some nice things offensively, I think if you look at our defensive numbers, our turnover numbers and our foul shot numbers, it is kind of indicative of a team not wired to play, and that’s my fault.”

Some of the setbacks Stallings referred to, included 19 turnovers, and a 16 of 25 showing from the charity stripe.  The Panthers were also outscored 52-32 in the paint, despite outrebounding the Bulldogs 50-30.

“I’m still learning about this group.  I like them, I like them as a group, but I didn’t know if we would have carry-over from what we saw in practice yesterday, but we did.  Our body language wasn’t right and you get 30 chances to play.”

Chance no. 3 comes Thursday night at Madison Square Garden where the Panthers will play SMU, who recently devoured 91-64, just two days after the Panthers defeated EMU 93-90 in double overtime.  Tipoff for Pitt/SMU is slated for 7 PM and can be seen nationally on ESPN2.

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