PITTSBURGH (AP) – Michael Young scored 16 points to go with 12 rebounds and Pittsburgh received a big lift off the bench from forward Aron Phillips-Nwankwo in the second half to pull away from Florida State 73-64 on Wednesday night.
Phillips-Nwankwo, a senior walk-on who is playing on an academic scholarship, scored a career-high seven points and sparked a decisive 16-3 run as the Panthers (12-5, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) shut down the Seminoles in the second half.
Chris Jones added 15 points for Pitt, which outrebounded Florida State (9-8, 1-3) 39-31 and held the Seminoles to just 32 percent shooting (10 of 31) in the second half.
Freshman Phil Cofer scored a career-high 21 points for Florida State but the Seminoles went nearly nine minutes without a field goal in the second half as Pitt took control.
Pitt has struggled to find any sort of consistency in the middle. Joseph Uchebo and Derrick Randall have been largely ineffective, forcing Young to play out of position at center and giving the Panthers serious matchup issues.
Coach Jamie Dixon gave Phillips-Nwankwo – who had played all of five minutes this season – a shot looking for a spark. He provided it and then some, sending a jolt through the Panthers that paid immediate dividends. With the game tied at 41 early in the second half, Phillips-Nwankwo hit a layup and was fouled. He made the layup and followed it with a putback that kickstarted Pitt’s best stretch of basketball in weeks.
The Panthers clamped down on the defensive end, holding the Seminoles in check while Pitt slowly pulled away. Jamel Artis hit a baseline jumper and then a reverse lay-up to push the Panthers in front 57-44. Florida State’s Kiel Turpin finally tipped in a miss that ended an 8:50 field-goal drought but the Seminoles never drew closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Florida State led by as much as eight during a sometimes frantic first half. The Panthers steadied themselves behind Young, who struggled in a loss to Clemson over the weekend. Given a little bit of freedom after Dixon moved Young from center to power forward – his natural position – for several minutes, Young hit a couple of jump shots and tipped in a miss at the buzzer to give Pitt a 33-32 lead at the break it probably didn’t deserve.
WHAT’S THE SCORE?
The game was delayed for several minutes with 5:57 left in the first half following a basket by Boris Bojanovsky. The center made a running layup down the lane while getting fouled by Young. Bojanovsky took a free throw with all the Pitt players standing still as the shot clanged off the rim. The referees stood still too, incorrectly signaling that Bojanovsky was due two shots. The officials huddled and then went to the scorer’s to watch video to remind them that Bojanovsky had indeed made the field goal.
Pitt’s Cam Wright and Florida State’s Jarquez Smith found themselves in a shoving match after battling for a loose ball late in the first half. Referees were forced to separate them, with Florida State center Michael Ojo narrowly escaping getting tossed. Ojo was on the bench during the brief altercation but sprang up and took several steps toward Wright and Smith before a student manager rushed to hold him back.
Florida State: The Seminoles used their massive size advantage to fluster Pitt early. Florida State finished with 7 blocks but just one in the second half.
Pitt: Dixon picked up his 300th career victory since taking over the program in 2003.
Florida State hosts N.C. State on Saturday.
Pitt hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday.