Opening the season without a single starter from their 31-win team last season, the Pittsburgh Panthers Mens’ basketball team struggled early and often as the Panthers barely survived what would have been a shocking upset at the hands of Wofford college.
In front of a sold out crowd, the Panthers raised their Elite Eight banner before the game but it took a 13 point second half comeback to hold off Wofford 63-60.
Pitt trailed 31-24 at the half and Wofford jumped out to leads of 41-28 and 54-45 in the second half.
The game time performer of the night for the Panthers was forward Gary McGhee who scored on a three-point play with 2.28 remaining in the second half to give Pitt its first lead of the half (59-58), then on the Panthers next offensive possession, McGhee came up big again, scoring on a putback to give Pitt a 61-58 lead with 1:33 remaining.
Guard Ashton Gibbs made two free throws with 17 seconds left to push the Panthers lead to 63-60. Wofford guard Junior Salters missed a three pointer at the end of the game as the Panthers held on.
Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon was pleased with his teams ability to fight back and felt this was the type of first game that the Panthers needed.
“This was an opportunity to improve for us and I thought that as the game went on, we got better, Dixon said.
It’s exciting to look forward to our next practice and our next game because we know we’re going to be better. This was the type of first game that we needed and I’m proud of our guys for gutting it out and coming through. I thought the fans were tremendous.”
Brad Wanamaker led the Panthers with 15 points.
“They got up on us early and I felt that I had to show leadership, as well as my teammates that were here last year, Wanamaker said. A lot of the guys were first-time starters or it was their first college game. As the game went on I think we got the jitters out and focused. In the end, we came through.”
A positive sign for the Panthers was the play of freshman forward Dante Taylor. Taylor was 5-for-7 with 13 points and 5 rebounds coming off the bench.
He split time with Gary McGhee who had 7 points and team high 8 rebounds.
The Panthers inconsistent play against a inferior opponent could be a sign of things to come. This is a young team that is going to struggle at times this year.