NEW YORK — For the sixth game of the 2018-19, the level of difficulty ratcheted up for the Pitt Panthers.
Pitt played St. Louis on Wednesday afternoon, the No. 73 team in combined efficiency according to KenPom.com and the preseason favorites in the Atlantic 10. They did so at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the first time the Panthers have left the Petersen Events Center this season and the first time playing in an NBA venue for Pitt’s three crucial freshmen.
As they have all season, the young Panthers proved up to the test, beating the Billikens, 75-73.
Xavier Johnson snagged an offensive rebound and put in a layup with 1:19 remaining and the Panthers got a defensive stop and took advantage of a Saint Louis missed free throw to salt away the victory down the stretch.
Johnson was a force in the second half, scoring all but three of his team-high 20 points after the break. He made the only 3-point attempt he took, with the rest of his damage coming on drives to the rim. He shot 6 of 11 from the floor and was 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.
Malik Ellison had 13 points and three assists while playing a season-high 39 minutes. Au’Diese Toney had eight points and he and Terrell Brown each had eight rebounds.
Pitt led through most of the first half, but never by more than a possession or two, with Jared Wilson-Frame, Sidy N’Dir and Brown making strong contributions off the bench.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) November 21, 2018
After a slow start at the rim, the Panthers responded to shoot 43.6 percent from the floor. They got to the free throw line 34 times, hitting 23 of them (67.6 percent).
Pitt’s next game will be an even bigger test, as the Panthers will travel to Iowa City, Iowa to face the Hawkeyes on Tuesday. That game has a 9 p.m. tipoff.