- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon has decided to divide his team’s season up into two parts.

The first part - the one without senior guard Cam Wright didn’t go so well. The second part - the one with the team’s most experienced player recovered from a foot injury - is perfect so far.

Wright scored a season-high 14 points and the Panthers eased their way to a 65-56 win over Manhattan on Wednesday night for their third straight victory, all with Wright in the lineup.

“We’re 3-0 with Cameron back and that’s how we look at things,” Dixon said. “There’s a lot of days to look forward here. A lot of days to get better.”

For Wright the view on the floor beats the one from the sideline, where he watched Pitt limp to a 4-3 start without him.

“I saw the game from a whole different perspective,” Wright said. “I was like Coach Wright. It’s a blessing to be out there. I love these guys to death.”

It showed. Wright hit 6 of 10 shots to go with two assists, two steals and a rebound on a night Pitt (7-3) extended its nonconference home winning streak to 27 games and counting.

Jamel Artis led the Panthers with a career-high 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Michael Young added 16 points while making all six of his field goals. Pitt shot 51 percent (23 of 45) from the floor and never trailed. The Panthers had assists on 20 of their 23 made field goals and withstood a furious late push.

Artis deftly found the open spots in Manhattan’s zone and did a little bit of everything. The sophomore knocked down mid-range jumpers, got to the rim and made 10 of 12 free throws.

“The team believed in me,” Artis said. “When the defense collapsed, shots were wide open.”

Emmy Andujar led Manhattan (2-7) with 19 points and Ashton Pankey had 12 points and 10 rebounds but the Jaspers turned it over 20 times. Manhattan has dropped five of six.

“I thought Pitt played at the pace they wanted to,” Manhattan coach Steve Masiello. “I didn’t think we sped them up the way we needed to. That’s a tribute to Pitt. We tried to. We just couldn’t get them playing at our speed.”

The Jaspers have struggled to produce any bounce from last year’s NCAA tournament appearance. A difficult early schedule hasn’t helped. Manhattan has played just one home game in the first month of the season and has struggled against bigger, deeper opponents.

Pitt is still searching for an identity after guard Durand Johnson was forced to sit out the entire season for a violation of NCAA rules and Wright spent two months recovering from a foot injury suffered in September.

Wright is slowly finding himself and so are the Panthers. Pitt came in off a grinding 58-54 win over St. Bonaventure that made up for in effectiveness what it lacked in beauty. Dixon praised his team for finding the grit it has lacked at times, and the Panthers took another step forward against the Jaspers.

Pitt took an early 11-2 lead as Manhattan hit just one field goal in the game’s first eight minutes. The Jaspers didn’t have trouble shooting but holding on to the ball. Manhattan gave it away 12 times in the first half and trailed 26-21 at the break despite making 9 of 18 shots.

“I thought we came out a little too in the fast lane,” Masiello said. “We turned it over eight of our first 11 possessions. I told the guys if we could just get to the basket we’d give ourselves a chance.”

It didn’t come until too late. The Panthers extended their lead to 53-37 behind Wright before the Jaspers made one final push fueled by Andujar. Manhattan drew as close as seven points twice in the final two minutes but could not get the one stop it needed to make things interesting.


Manhattan: Senior guard Donovan Kates left with 8:20 remaining after injuring his leg while scrambling back on defense. Kates went scoreless in 16 minutes.

Pitt: Dixon lamented the departure of athletic director Steve Pederson, who was fired on Wednesday in an administrative shakeup following the departure of football coach Paul Chryst. Dixon called Pederson a friend but added “Pitt will be fine” and that he remains “excited about the future here.”


Manhattan: hosts Morgan State on Saturday.

Pitt: hosts Oakland on Saturday.

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