PITTSBURGH (AP) — Kendrick Perry was the latest of a series of talented guards to play against Pitt and score more than 20 points. But in each game, Pitt won, as the Panthers beat Perry’s Youngstown State 91-73.
Perry scored 28 points against the Panthers, the highest single-game scoring performance against Pitt (10-0) by an opposing player this year, but didn’t factor into the game’s outcome.
“I’d be much happier if I scored 8 points and we got a win,” Perry said.
There was a pre-existing level of familiarity between Perry and some of Pitt’s players — he played with some Panthers in Pittsburgh Basketball Club’s Greentree Summer League the past two summers. In Greentree, players like Pitt point guard James Robinson learned about Perry’s game, which prepared Robinson and Pitt to defend him.
“We knew he was going to be aggressive,” Robinson said. “Obviously we didn’t do that good of a job on him, but we were still fortunate enough to come out with the win.”
Between each of the three games featuring excellent opposing guards, the Panthers have been able to hold teams and players below their scoring average.
“We just want to play help, play good team defense and contain the other guys,” freshman Josh Newkirk said. “We want to stop their main scorer, but if he gets his then we just make sure the other people stay under their averages.”
The Penguins’ point total of 73 ultimately became the highest total Pitt allowed this season in a game, but Kamren Belin was the only other Penguin to reach double-figures with his 13 points after an inefficient 12 shot attempts.
But Robinson doesn’t like to think about it that way.
“The game’s up in the air when you let someone go off like that,” Robinson said.
After Pitt allowed Penn State’s Tim Frazier to score 27 points and Loyola Marymount’s Anthony Ireland to put up 20, head coach Jamie Dixon pondered aloud if his players take as much pride in stopping the opposing team’s best scorer as he does. Robinson denies the notion.
“I think we take as much pride in that as he does,” Robinson said. “Obviously it hasn’t shown in the last three games, but we take pride in our defense and as individuals.”
Perry scored his team’s first seven points and kept the Penguins (7-5) in the game. With 11 minutes left in the first half, Perry had nine points and his team only trailed 18-14.
But Pitt pulled away to take an 11-point lead into halftime, and began the second half on a 7-0 run to put the game out of Perry’s reach.
A good portion of Perry’s points came in the transition game, where he capitalized on his speed and Pitt turnovers to get easy lay-ups on fast breaks.
The ability of players like Frazier, Ireland, and now Perry to score from the perimeter reveals to Robinson a need for Pitt to get better defensively not just to win games, but keep the Panthers pride on defense intact.
“We kind of look at it as like, he can walk around and go say he dropped 28 on Pitt,” Robinson said. “While that’s good for him, it kind of looks bad on us so as individuals and a team we’re going to have to really improve.”
Then again, as Dixon believes, his team can win despite a scoring barrage from any player.”We’re not doing things to stop one guy,” Dixon said. “We don’t think one guy can beat us.”