Jared Wilson-Frame doesn’t seem to be bothered by not being in the starting lineup.
The Pittsburgh senior came off the bench for 20 points on Thursday, lifting the Panthers to a 97-71 victory over Central Arkansas.
Wilson-Frame has passed the 20-point barrier in each of his three games this season. As usual, he did most of his damage from beyond the arc, shooting 4 of 8 from 3-point range. He’s shooting 55.6 percent from long range on the season.
He didn’t waste much time getting involved, first coming off the bench as the Bears jumped out to a 17-8 lead, but Wilson-Frame immediately fought back with a 3-pointer that sparked a 16-2 Pitt run, after which the Panthers never trailed.
“I’m just comfortable,” Wilson-Frame said of his bench role. “I’m going to keep using that word, because it’s just fun to play basketball this way and it’s fun to play basketball with these guys — guys you love.”
“He’s a guy that can put up points, but more importantly, he’s a guy that can create plays,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “We want Jared to be aggressive when he has open looks.”
Freshman wing Au’Diese Toney set a career high with 15 points. Fellow freshmen Xavier Johnson (12) and Trey McGowens (11) also finished in double digits. Malik Ellison had 13 points.
Thatch Unruh led the way for the Bears with 15 points, all of which came in the first half.
Central Arkansas: The Bears will get a couple more shots against major conference opponents after a 13-point loss to Missouri and Thursday’s loss to the Panthers. The Bears visit Louisville on Dec. 5, Indiana on Dec. 19 and Oklahoma State on Dec. 21.
“I don’t mind getting slugged in the mouth a little bit,” Bears coach Russ Pennell said. “We play in the Southland Conference. You get one bid. . We’ve got to be ready and be men by the tournament in March. That’s what we gear everything toward. That’s why we play Pitt.”
Pitt: Wilson-Frame continues to be the Panthers’ most prolific scorer in his sixth-man role. His 20 points actually decreased his season average to 21.3, but that’s still 7.0 more than second-leading scorer Johnson.
The teams combined for 42 personal fouls, with many of them sending a player sprawling to the floor. Johnson was whistled for a technical in the first half.
The Panthers did a better job taking advantage, getting to the free-throw line for 35 attempts and hitting 26 of them. Central Arkansas made just nine of its 13 from the stripe.
“That’s part of the game,” said Toney, who was 6 of 7 from the line. “If you attack, they’re going to call fouls.”
Johnson played just 17 minutes, a season low, after his technical and second personal foul earned him a seat on Pitt’s bench.
Capel credited Ellison and Sidy N’Dir for steadying things at the point and Johnson for responding with a stellar second half.
“That’s sitting for a while, for over a half hour,” Capel said. “I thought he did a really good job of keeping himself in the game.”
Unruh had 12 as Central Arkansas built an early lead, but was largely neutralized after that thanks to Pitt’s defensive adjustment.
“I thought they really sat on him and turned him into a driver,” Pennell said. “He’s a catch and shoot guy. . I thought their athleticism kind of engulfed him in the second half.”
Central Arkansas: Visits Troy on Sunday. The Bears’ first five games against Division I opponents this season will come on the road.
Pitt: Finishes its five-game, season-opening home stand against North Alabama on Saturday.
Source: The Associated Press