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Johnson's late three's lead Pitt over Yale 75-70

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Mike Young had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks and Cameron Johnson hit three straight 3-pointers down the stretch to lead Pitt over Yale 75-70 Tuesday night at the Petersen Events Center.

“We’re a work in progress.  We’re not a finished product.”

Coach Kevin Stallings unequivocally painted the picture for the 40 minutes of basketball the Panthers played against Yale Tuesday night, in which Pit (4-1) prevailed 75-70 at Petersen Events Center.

At times stagnant, and other times a fluid motion, the Panthers had their one reliable consistency: the dynamic-duo of Michael Young and Jamel Artis in the zone.

The duo sparked most of the highlights for the Panthers, combining for 44 points and 16 rebounds, with Young leading all scorers at 24 points, going 9 of 15 from the field and a perfect 6 of 6 from the stripe.

As a team the Panthers went a solid 11 of 24 (45.8%) in the second half, while connecting on 17 of 23 free throws.

“We are showing more motion action and we’re keeping the middle open,” said Young about the second half success offensively. “It depends on who is open and who’s driving the lane.”

“Mike and Jamel continue to play at a very high level,” said Stallings. “When (Yale) switched to zone, fortunately Cam (Johnson) responded like we want him to do.”

Johnson dropped three straight 3-pointers on the Yale zone with just over four minutes left in the game, which advanced Pitt to as much as a nine-point lead, distancing away from their Ivy League opponent.

The sophomore guard finished 4 of 5 from beyond-the-arc, netting 15 points, joining Artis and Young as the only Panthers to drop double-digits.

“It stretches the defense out and spaces, and it takes pressure off those other two guys that are doing yeoman’s work right now,” said Stallings about Johnson’s ability to shoot long-range. “When they switch to zone like that he’s supposed to get himself into position to get good looks at the basket, and that’s what he did and they went in.”

Aside from Johnson’s stellar day from the 3-point line, the Panthers combined went a miserable 1 of 10, while putting together a stagnant offensive performance in the first half, in which a 15 of 34 performance revealed just a two-point advantage for the home team.

Thanks to the trio of forwards Blake Reynolds and Sam Downey, and guard Miye Oni—who combined for 21 rebounds and 44 points—Yale hung in for most of the game, holding their own both from the wing and inside the paint, where they were outrebounded by the smallest of margins, 37-36, but outrebounded the Panthers on the offensive glass 10-7.

“We led the rebounding margin in the nation last year. That is kind of our trademark,” said Yale head coach James Jones. “I was unhappy by our rebounding margin, because we lost it by one. I expect to be ahead in rebounding in every game we play this season.”

Despite the Panthers (or both teams, according to Yale’s Jones) rebounding struggles, there was vast improvement in the ball-handling department, where Pitt dished out 13 assists and had a season-low 5 turnovers, which was a bright note for Stallings, even if it meant sacrificing some open looks.

“We cut our turnovers down by taking bad shots early, but I was happy to see those numbers in that area,” said coach.  “I’ll take 13 assists and five turnovers.  We’ll take those kind of numbers every night.”

The Panthers will host Morehead State of the Ohio Valley Conference on Friday night at Petersen Events Center.  Tipoff is set for 7 PM.

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