PITTSBURGH (AP) – Jared Wilson-Frame scored 24 points off the bench and freshman point guard Xavier Johnson had 15 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as Pitt remained unbeaten with an 84-75 victory over Troy on Monday night.
Kene Chukwuka added a career-high 13 points for the Panthers and Terrell Brown chipped in 12 as Pitt improved to 3-0.
First-year head coach Jeff Capel suspended Wilson-Frame for last week’s season opener for a violation of team rules. The Panthers played so capably without Wilson-Frame – the program’s leading scorer last season – that Capel opted to keep Wilson-Frame out of the starting lineup upon his return, hoping the burly senior guard could provide some scoring punch off the bench.
Wilson-Frame has responded brilliantly. He scored a team-high 20 points in a victory over Virginia Military Institute last Friday and backed it up by knocking down 9 of 15 shots – including 6 of 10 3-pointers – as the Panthers held off a spirited effort by the Trojans (1-2).
Jordon Varnado led Troy with 22 points and Alex Hicks added 16 and Troy hung around despite never leading and shooting just 35 percent (22 of 63) from the floor.
Wilson-Frame knocked down three straight 3-pointers midway through the second half as the Panthers built a 14-point lead but Troy refused to go away. The Trojans never led but drew within seven in the final minute before finally succumbing.
Capel is spending his first weeks on the job trying to get a feel for a group that has a mixture of holdovers from a team that went winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season and a handful of freshmen that are part of his long-term plans to turn the program around.
Johnson is a key part of the process. His athleticism gives the Panthers a dimension they’ve missed at point guard in recent years and he has quickly adapted to the up-tempo style Capel is trying to implement. The 6-foot-3 Johnson has the quickness to get in the lane with ease against smaller, slower opponents. He made it a point to get Pitt’s big men involved early, freeing up Chukwuka and Brown for easy layups after creating a mismatch with his penetration.
Troy: The Trojans, picked to finish fourth in the Sun Belt Conference, will be a handful for league opponents. Troy blocked five shots and refused to bail in the second half after Wilson-Frame got hot.
Pitt: Rebounding is going to be an issue all season for the undersized Panthers. Troy was able to hang around for so long despite its shooting issues by crashing the offensive glass. Both teams finished with 37 rebounds but the Trojans had 14 offensive boards, which translated to a 16-5 advantage in second-chance points.
Troy: host Southern Miss on Thursday.
Pitt: Welcomes Central Arkansas on Thursday.
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