PITTSBURGH (AP)—This is how good Sam Young has been for No. 19 Pittsburgh. He was chosen as the MVP of the early season tournament on the Panthers’ home court even before the final game was played.
Obviously, someone knew what they were doing.
Young gave Mississippi Valley State plenty of problems at both ends of the floor, scoring 17 points and starting numerous fast breaks with his 12 rebounds to lead the unbeaten Panthers to a 78-45 victory Thursday night.
Pitt (4-0) closed out the Hispanic College Fund Challenge portion of its schedule with its fourth consecutive home-court victory, all by margins of at least 11 points.
Young, coming off an up-and-down sophomore season in which he averaged seven points, had a strong game despite playing little more than a half as coach Jamie Dixon emptied his bench early while Pitt was opening a 19-5 lead.
“I think I played focused throughout the game,” said Young, who is averaging 18.8 points and nearly 10 rebounds.
In a curiosity, Young found himself playing in a tournament in which he had already been chosen as the most valuable player. Young was given the award after scoring 58 points in three games last weekend against Houston Baptist, North Carolina A&T and Saint Louis.
Mississippi Valley State (0-2), which was led by Stanford Speech’s 10 points, played only one tournament game at Pitt but will play three more games at Washington State in the event’s West Coast bracket from Nov. 23-25.
Delta Devils coach James Green was impressed with Young and his teammates. Green knew it would be difficult without 6-foot-10 Larry Cox, who has a foot injury and might not return until Southwestern Athletic Conference play begins.
No matter, Green said his players could learn from watching Pitt continue to play hard defensively and dive for loose balls even while up by 30 points.
“They played hungry, and I was impressed by that,” said Green, whose team won 18 games last season and played in the NIT. “I was impressed from a toughness standpoint … to be able to get a team to play that hard against a lesser opponent. I’ve been on the other end of it, and it can be tough to get a group to continue to play. I think it was great for our team to be able to play against a team like that.”
Pitt wrapped this one up early, after Young drove the baseline for a layin and hit a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 11-3 less than 4 minutes in. Dixon pulled his starters and went with his second unit for a long stretch after that, before the starters returned to help push the lead to 35-15 late in the first half.
“The goal was to be a better team after four games and I think we have improved tremendously, especially on the defensive end,” Dixon said. “We defended well and we rebounded well.
Gilbert Brown, a 6-6 redshirt freshman scoring in double figures for the first time, added 12 points while going 4-for-4 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the foul line. Tyrell Biggs, another backup, had 10 points as 13 of Pitt’s 14 players scored.
“I think I can help offensively and defensively with my height and ability,” Brown said.
DeJuan Blair, Pitt’s promising 6-foot-7 freshman, had only two points in nine minutes before being held out with soreness in his lower back, but he had seven rebounds and teamed with Young to repeatedly frustrate the Delta Devils on the backboards.
“They jumped all over us,” Green said.
Even with Blair out, Pitt didn’t let up defensively and usually limited the Delta Devils to one shot on a possession.
“We definitely want to make sure we can play with anybody out of the game,” Young said.
Pitt scored the first six points of the second half to make it 41-19, allowing Dixon to spread out the playing time in the Panthers’ final game until after Thanksgiving.
“I wish we could keep on playing,” Young said.
The Panthers, despite a subpar shooting night in which they were 6-of-22 beyond the 3-point line, held a 50-30 edge in rebounding and limited Mississippi Valley State to 26.3 percent shooting (15-of-57).