PITTSBURGH (AP) Pittsburgh barely had a day after its victory against Eastern Washington on Friday night to prepare for a matchup with Morehead State on Sunday afternoon. Regardless of time, coach Jamie Dixon knew what the scrappy, tough Eagles would try to do against the Panthers.
”We told them exactly what was going to happen,” Dixon said. ”They were going to get into us, they were going to be aggressive, they were going to foul and switch out.”
After Morehead State took an early lead, the Panthers got into the Eagles, got to the foul line and took control in the second half of a 72-62 victory against Morehead State.
Jamel Artis scored 22 points and Michael Young added 20 points for Pitt (8-1).
”When a team plays scrappy we’ve just got to attack,” Artis said. ”Get to the rim, make the ref call a foul and that’s what we did most of the game.”
Brent Arrington scored 13 points while Corban Collins and Lyonell Gaines each chipped in 11 to lead Morehead State (5-3).
Morehead State led 14-10 after the game’s first 10 minutes. The Eagles forced five turnovers and held the Panthers to a 4-of-11 shooting start.
”We were lackadaisical on the offensive end,” Artis said. ”They were into us in the beginning and we didn’t come to the ball, we weren’t aggressive.”
Artis put back a missed jump shot and made the and-one free throw to tie the game at 15-15. Young then scored Pitt’s next 10 points to help the Panthers establish a lead in the first half.
Pitt overcame a cold start from the field by making 16 of 21 free throws and led 35-28 at halftime.
Morehead State shot 14 free throws in Sunday’s game and was whistled for 25 fouls. Coach Sean Woods expected a physical game.
”I didn’t think we were fouling that much,” Woods said. ”I think it should have been even but who am I? I didn’t think we did any more fouling than they did for the most part.”
The Panthers used an 11-0 run in the first three minutes of the second half to take an 18-point lead.
After Morehead State’s solid first half, the Eagles couldn’t keep up with the Panthers. Pitt shot 6 of 10 to start the second half and held Morehead State to 2-of-12 shooting in the first nine minutes out of halftime.
Pitt extended its winning streak to four games. Sunday’s low-scoring affair followed three straight 80-point games by the Panthers.
Morehead State: The Eagles allowed their opponent to top 70 points for the second consecutive game. Morehead State, which entered the game ranked 16th nationally in allowing 59.9 points per game, had not yielded more than 67 prior to a 92-59 loss to Indiana in the Eagles’ previous game on Dec. 5.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers, leading the ACC in scoring at 87 points per game, failed to hit the 80-point threshold for the first time in three games and just the second time all season.
RUN AND GUN
Pitt asserted itself with an 11-0 run out of the half that gave the Panthers a lead firmly in-hand for the rest of the game. Jamel Artis credited his team’s defense for being able to get out ahead of the Eagles defense and make offensive come easier.
”It started on the defensive end,” Artis said. ”We got out in transition and didn’t wait for them to set up. We got the ball up the court and just finished plays, got it inside more.”
Morehead State dropped back-to-back games against Power 5 competition with Sunday’s loss followed a its defeat at Indiana on Dec. 5. From one game to the next, head coach Sean Woods liked part of he saw from games he hopes will toughen his team for Ohio Valley Conference play.
”When Indiana made a run we didn’t recover,” Woods said. ”We come here, Pitt makes a run, they go up 19 and we stay status quo and had an opportunity to make a run and cut it to 10.”
Morehead State plays at Eastern Washington on Thursday.
Pittsburgh plays Davidson in the Gotham Classic next Sunday at Madison Square Garden.