PITTSBURGH, Pa. (AP) — Pittsburgh is now firmly entrenched in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but that doesn’t mean the Panthers haven’t forgotten their bruising ways developed in the “old” Big East. Saturday’s game against St. Bonaventure was reminiscent of those times with low shooting percentages and high foul totals on each side.
In the end, the Panthers made free throws when they needed to, St. Bonaventure didn’t, and the Panthers ground out a 58-54 victory in a style Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon is well-familiar with.
“I wish we would’ve played better,” Dixon said. “The good thing is that we won with our defense and made plays at the end.”
St. Bonaventure had chance to tie the game after Jaylen Adams was fouled on a 3-point attempt with the Bonnies trailing 55-52 and 6 seconds to play, but Adams missed the second free throw.
Michael Young followed with a pair of successful attempts to ice Pitt’s victory.
Pitt (6-3) outlasted the Bonnies (6-2) in a defensive struggle and the Panthers shot 40 percent from the field to just 36 percent for the Bonnies. The teams combined to force 27 turnovers.
St. Bonaventure head coach Mark Schmidt knew his team would have to defend well to win on the road, as well as make free throws, rebound well and not turn the ball over.
“I think we did a good job defending and we did a better job rebounding,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t do a great job on the foul line and we didn’t take care of the ball.”
Young said there was a focus on defense in the past week of practice, and it seemed to pay dividends in Pitt’s favor.
“I think we’re better when we play defense, period,” Young said. “When we play defense we play better.”
Pitt took a 42-31 lead after a 13-2 run early in the second half behind a 3-pointer from Chris Jones and a couple baskets by Josh Newkirk as well as feed to Jamel Artis on the break that gave Pitt an 11-point lead, its largest of the game.
Artis said pushing the tempo helped the Panthers get ahead.
“I think we took the first 10 minutes lightly and then we came out aggressively in the second half and pushed the tempo,” Artis said.
The Bonnies battled back with a 14-2 run and took a 45-44 lead with back-to-back baskets by Dion Wright.
Young and Artis each came up with baskets for Pitt that put the Panthers in control of the game down the stretch, forcing the Bonnies to foul.
Young and Artis led Pitt with 14 points apiece and Jones added 11. Young shot just 3 of 10 as he missed many chances down low, as did the rest of the team.
“I couldn’t make a shot to save my life,” Young said.
Artis made his first start of the season at the power forward slot as Dixon slid Young to center.
“Now (Artis is) back to where he played last year,” Dixon said. “He’s a better player at this spot, we’re a better team with him at this spot.”
St. Bonaventure guard Marcus Posley led all scorers with 17 and Dion Wright chipped in 10.
The action was back-and-forth throughout the first half, with five lead changes and six ties. St. Bonaventure led 25-24 after 20 minutes of action.
St. Bonaventure posted its lowest scoring output of the season in the loss. The Bonnies’ prior lowest total came in a 59-53 victory against Canisius Nov. 19. They also finished with their worst shooting rate of 36 percent after shooting 18 of 50 Saturday.
Pitt finished 15 of 23 from the free throw line, a 65.2 percent rate, the team’s second-worst mark of the year. The Panthers entered the game shooting 70.5 percent from the charity stripe, and shot 62.5 percent in their last game against Duquesne.
ONE IN, ONE OUT
Pittsburgh senior guard Cameron Wright made his first start of the season Saturday after missing 10 weeks with a broken foot. He played 21 minutes and shot 0 of 4 from the field, scoring one point on a free throw.
Meanwhile, freshman Cameron Johnson missed the game with a shoulder problem Dixon said has bothered him for the last six weeks.
Pittsburgh plays Manhattan Wednesday at home.
St. Bonaventure faces Binghamton next Saturday.