Mountain Cats struggle against Pitt

Senior guard (22) Jake Laravie takes a shot against the Pitt Panthers on Saturday at the Peterson Events Center.

Kayleigh Kriner

Senior guard (22) Jake Laravie takes a shot against the Pitt Panthers on Saturday at the Peterson Events Center.

Cory Geer, Staff Writer

The Pitt-Johnstown men’s basketball team traveled to the Peterson Events Center on Saturday to take on the University of Pittsburgh for their final exhibition game of the season.

This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2007, when the Pitt Panthers defeated the Mountain Cats 97-56.

The Pitt Panthers basketball team was too much for the Mountain Cats, winning the game by the final score of 95-65.

The experience of playing at the Peterson center is something that senior forward A.J. Leahey said he will cherish.

“It was an amazing experience and something that I’ll never forget,” said Leahey.

Leahey said playing against athletes of this caliber will help the team in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.

Head coach Bob Rukavina said that it was a great experience for Pitt-Johnstown players .

The Panthers took early control with a 14-2 lead hitting three of their first six 3-point attempts.

At the 8:50 mark of the first half the Mountain Cats cut the deficit to five, with a layup from junior forward Levi Masua, making the score 19-14 in favor of the Panthers.

Then the Panthers went on a 13-2 run highlighted by a dunk from senior forward Sheldon Jeter.

In the first half, the Mountain Cats were led by Leahey, who scored 12 points. As a team, they shot 30.3 percent from the field and 3-13 from behind the arc.

The Panthers led the Mountain Cats 41-25 at halftime.

Senior guard Jake Laravie said he could tell everyone was nervous in the beginning, but, once the nerves wore off, they felt they could keep up.

“It was a great experience playing an ACC team before our season starts. It help(ed) build our confidence especially since it was close throughout the game,” said Laravie.

The second half started with Panthers senior guard Jamel Artis and Leahey alternating three-pointers.

Down 11 points, the Mountain Cats worked themselves back into the game, but a steal from Panthers freshman guard Justice Kithcart led to a two-point jump shot by senior forward Michael Young, pushing the lead back to 13.

After that, the Panthers hit three straight 3-pointers to push the score to 72-52, then coasted to victory.

Leahey’s 20 points on 8-18 shooting led three Mountain Cats who scored in double figures and tied Artis in game-highs for points.

Young, third-team all Atlantic Coast Conference player for the Panthers, said the Mountain Cats took away a lot of the driving lanes and forced them into taking jumpers.

The Panthers’ starting lineup ranges in height from 6 feet 6 inches to 6 feet 9 inches, and Rukavina said it caused some problems for Pitt-Johnstown.

“Our guys did a really good job with what they wanted to do. We really couldn’t make passes where we wanted the ball to go in order to try to run our set plays,” said Rukavina.

Panther head coach Kevin Stallings said he was impressed by Leahey’s performance.

“We knew that he could really shoot. He’s a little bit of an unorthodox player. Probably six foot eight or six foot nine and 240 pounds. He has terrific range,” said Stallings.

Pitt-Johnstown student Kayleigh Kriner said it was a cool experience to be able to watch Pitt-Johnstown play at the Peterson Events center but also get a chance to watch the Panthers play.

Pitt-Johnstown tips-off the season Friday and Saturday at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Atlantic Region Challenge.

The Mountain Cats return home Nov. 16  to host a non-conference game against Carlow University at 7 p.m. in the Sports Center.

Pitt-Johnstown starts conference play on the road Nov. 19 at Bloomsburg University and Nov. 20 at East Stroudsburg University.