PITTSBURGH (AP)—Long before his Pitt teammates took the court for their pregame warmup, Sam Young took practice shot after practice shot from beyond the 3-point line. Despite being an infrequent outside shooter his first two college seasons, Young knew exactly what he was doing.
Young proved too much for North Carolina A&T to handle outside or inside and No. 22 Pittsburgh romped to its second victory in two days, winning 88-61 Saturday.
Young, a 6-foot-6 junior who looks more comfortable in a higher-gear Pitt offense than he did in a more patient system last season, is showing off a previously unseen outside shooting touch. He made four 3-pointers while scoring a career-high 24 points and is 8-for-11 on 3s in two games after going 17-of-63 as a sophomore and freshman.
“I didn’t expect to shoot that many 3s, but they were leaving me open and those opportunities presented themselves,” Young said. “But I do have high expectations for myself.”
Mike Cook helped out with 13 points and Ronald Ramon had 12 for Pitt (2-0), which put the game away with a 16-0 run midway through the first half.
The Panthers have scored 191 points in two days, beating Houston Baptist 103-62 on Friday, while showing off a much faster-paced offense than when 7-footer Aaron Gray was in the middle the last two seasons.
“The players like it and the coaches like it, too,” point guard Levance Fields said. “I think we need to be more patient on some shots. But I think we’re mostly going to show the up and down stuff.”
The Panthers played much of the game without DeJuan Blair, the first hometown player to start at center for them in a quarter-century. Blair had one of the most productive debuts in school history with 20 points, 14 rebounds and four steals in a 103-62 decision over Houston Baptist. He spent all but 3 1/2 minutes of the first half Saturday on the bench in foul trouble and didn’t get his first basket until 1:10 into the second half, during a 12-0 run that increased Pitt’s lead to 56-23.
“Our defense wasn’t as good as it’s going to be, but big guys will get into foul trouble,” coach Jamie Dixon said.
Blair was held to 10 points and seven rebounds in 15 minutes, but it hardly mattered with Young also contributing 11 of Pitt’s 38 rebounds. Young, who averaged 7.2 points last season, is averaging 23 points after opening with 22 points—previously his career high—and nine rebounds Friday.
“My goal is to average a win every time we play,” Young said, saying it is the result, not his average, that matters.
Pitt put Houston Baptist away early by scoring the game’s first 13 points, but the Panthers worked a little harder Saturday. They trailed 12-8 with four minutes gone and didn’t take the lead for good against the Aggies (0-2) until Young scored from the baseline to make it 15-14.
Young and Cook hit 3-pointers to start the 16-0 run that lasted nearly six minutes and jumped Pitt’s lead from 18-17 to 34-17. Cook then scored from the inside and had a chance for a three-point play, only to miss the free throw. Pitt got the rebound and Fields made one of Pitt’s four 3-pointers during the run, giving the Panthers five points on a single trip down the floor.
Young finished off the run with a spinning dunk off a steal and Pitt went on to open a 44-23 lead at halftime.
“They went on that run and kind of broke the game loose,” A&T coach Jerry Eaves said. “We were hurt by the 3s and them swinging the ball around well. We were playing some of our bench—one of the things you want to do the first weekend—and they exploited that on us.”
However, Eaves questioned if Pitt will be as effective from the outside when Big East play starts and teams present more difficult matchups than his team could.
“I don’t think they’re the greatest pure shooters in the country,” he said. “They shouldn’t be a huge matchup problem for the best teams in the Big East.”
Steven Rush led A&T with 13 points. The Aggies were outrebounded 38-28 and were only 4-of-19 (21.1 percent) from beyond the arc to Pitt’s 44.4 percent (12-of-27).
Pitt improved to 17-0 against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schools and 49-1 at the Petersen Events Center against non-Big East schools. The Panthers play their third game in three days Sunday in the Hispanic College Fund tournament, facing Saint Louis and coach Rick Majerus, whose motion offense is the blueprint for much of Pitt’s system.