PITTSBURGH (AP) — In the first half against McNeese State on Saturday afternoon, Pittsburgh couldn’t get going on offense and was without senior lead Ryan Luther, who missed the game with a foot injury.
In the second half, junior Jared Wilson-Frame stepped into the void as both a vocal leader and a volume scorer, scoring 16 of his 19 points after the break to lead Pitt to a 72-51 win.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the first half when they went a combined 15 for 65 (23 percent). McNeese State took a 10-3 lead and it took the Panthers (6-5) much of the first half to battle back.
Wilson-Frame, a junior college product in his first Division I season, got things going with a second-half hot streak from downtown. He was 5 of 7 from 3-point range and 7 of 11 overall.
“Jared’s leadership was terrific today and I really think that’s what enabled him to play the way that he did,” Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings said. “He was talking in at halftime, talking on the way out of the locker room. He was the guy that was bringing the energy for us today.”
After the break, Wilson-Frame went on a roll. He went on a personal 13-5 run to push the Pitt lead from five at the break to a more-comfortable 13. As a team, Pitt shot 16 of 27 from the floor and 8 of 14 from beyond the arc in the second period.
“We had great shots when they made their run,” McNeese State head coach Dave Simmons said. “Those are shots we can finish. . We couldn’t stay close enough and the game just got a little bit lopsided.”
James Harvey led the Cowboys (2-7) with 14 points. Quatarrius Wilson had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
McNeese State had one chance this regular season to face a major-conference opponent, and the Cowboys acquitted themselves well. Coming off three straight losses, the Cowboys got off to a hot start, leading until the 10:44 mark of the first half.
Pitt’s young team features seven freshmen and just two seniors, so playing without Luther provided the Panthers with a glimpse of the future, especially at forward. Brown made his fourth career start and played a career-high 24 minutes. Fellow freshmen Peace Ilegomah also set a new career mark with 16 minutes played.
Luther missed the game and is expected to be out “at least” a couple of weeks with a right foot injury, according to head coach Kevin Stallings.
It’s the same foot that Luther injured last season, when he missed 12 games with a stress fracture, but this injury is to a different metatarsal and is a stress reaction, rather than a fracture.
Luther is averaging a double-double on the season with 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He is Pitt’s leader in points, rebounds, blocks and steals. He is expected to be re-evaluated in two weeks.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
In Luther’s absence, the Panthers utilized a team rebounding mentality that saw Terrell Brown (seven) and Parker Stewart (eight) each set career highs. Shamiel Stevenson also grabbed eight boards, while Wilson-Frame had five.
“(Luther) averages a double-double. It’s kind of hard to replace that,” Wilson-Frame said. “We knew it was going to have to be multiple people putting in that work that he does as a collective group.”
McNeese State returns home to face Texas College on Tuesday. The Cowboys are undefeated at home this year, but have played just two games there, starting the year with seven of their first nine on the road.
Pitt continues a nine-game homestand with a game against Delaware State on Tuesday. The Hornets have not beaten a Division I opponent this season.
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