PITTSBURGH (AP) – Using a barrage of 3-pointers, Pittsburgh sailed past Morehead State 76-63 on Friday night.
The Panthers had averaged just 7.2 3-point field goals per game coming in, but they eclipsed that by halftime and finished 11 of 19 from long range.
The Panthers used the long ball to open up a 16-point lead at the break. The Eagles chipped away early in the second half, but could only get as close as seven.
“I thought we did some really good things in the first half, especially in regards to shooting the ball and sharing the ball,” said Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings. “We moved it around and got open shots. I think that’s why we shot so well from 3. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a stat sheet that 100 percent of the baskets were assisted, which we were in the first half.”
The Panthers were able to use their size advantage and exploit the Morehead State defense’s switching tendencies, which mimicked the Panthers’ own defense.
“They do a lot of switching and because we switch, we kind of knew how to beat it,” said Cameron Johnson, who had a team-high four 3-pointers. “We work against it in practice every day, so we just knew where openings would be against that kind of defense.”
Seniors Jamel Artis and Michael Young led Pitt (5-1) with 17 and 20 points, respectively.
Morehead State (2-3) played its first game without head coach Sean Woods, who was suspended Tuesday by athletic director Brian Hutchison while unspecified complaints are investigated. Third-year assistant Preston Spradlin, 29, made his NCAA head coaching debut in the loss.
DeJuan Marrero did the heavy lifting for the Eagles with a double-double. He was 8 of 13 for 18 points and had 13 rebounds to lead Morehead State in both categories.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
Marrero, a redshirt senior, played all 40 minutes for the first time in his career. Spradlin credited Marrero’s discipline in avoiding foul trouble while guarding larger opponents for Marrero being able to remain in the game. The Eagles were 336th in the country in personal fouls per game with an average of 25.5, but committed just 19 against the Panthers.
HE SAID IT
“We told our kids that if they beat us shooting jumpers, they beat us shooting jumpers. They beat us shooting jumpers.” – Spradlin on Morehead State’s defensive philosophy.
Morehead State: The Eagles will play two more major-conference opponents this season when they visit Purdue and Mississippi State in December. They’ll hope to build from those before Ohio Valley Conference play starts.
“In all of them, you have to learn,” Spradlin said. “If you’re not learning every single game, then you’re not going to be very good at the end of the year and you’re not doing your job as a coach.”
Pitt: The offense’s newfound success with the 3-pointer could be a way to reduce the reliance on Artis and Young. Besides Johnson, reserve guard Jonathan Milligan also had three 3-pointers, though Stallings said he wants a better defensive performance from the junior.
Morehead State: Returns home to face Northern Kentucky on Wednesday. The Eagles are 2-0 at home and 0-3 on the road.
Pitt: Will play its first road game of the season when the Panthers visit Maryland as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday. Pitt is 1-1 away from home in a pair of neutral-site games this season.
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