The Pitt Panthers played a rare non-conference game in the middle of their ACC schedule. They added the game against Bryant so that they would not have a full week off between games. The move was almost disastrous, as Pitt had to come back to defeat Bryant 72-67 in front of 7,749 at the Pete.
The Bryant Bulldogs off the NEC conference started the game with some hot shooting and raced out to a 25-19 lead before Pitt went on a 13-2 run that may have been their best 5 minutes of basketball all year. After Pitt took a 32-25 lead the Panthers offense disappeared again and they found themselves trailing the Bulldogs at the half 36-34.
The Panthers offense struggled early in the second half before emerging star Jamel Artis scored 14 points in 5 minutes and gave the Panthers a 52-44 lead. Once again the Panthers offense did a disappearing act as Bryant went on a 13-1 run to take a 57-53 lead. The Panthers got big three pointers by Artis and Josh Newkirk to tie the game at 64-64. Bryant took a short 67-66 lead before the Panthers scored the final 6 points to win 72-67.
The Panthers once again struggled giving up wide open shots and easy penetration. At this point, they are just not a very good defense team. The encouraging thing for the Panthers is their offense has picked up. The offense still goes long stretches when the look awful and goes without scoring for big chunks of time. Jamel Artis scored 32 points for Pitt tonight on 11-17 shooting, including 3-4 from the three point line. Over his last six games Artis is averaging 21.3 ppg and 7 rpg. That is an All-ACC level of play. Josh Newkirk started and played 31 minutes. He gave the Panthers 3 big three pointers and finished with 11 points. Michael Young chipped in 10 points and 11 rebounds and Cameron Wright scored 11 points including a big jumper late in the game that gave the Panthers a 3 point lead.
The Panthers are now 15-8 and 4-5 in the ACC. They have a tough three game stretch with Syracuse, at Louisville, and home against North Carolina. This will be the defining run for this years team. Winning two of three would be huge. There are only nine games left for the Panthers to try to make the tournament. They will have their opportunity to knock off ranked teams. They will need it to help their resume.
The Panthers host Syracuse at the Pete on Satuday. It will be a black out and the Panthers have unveiled their black uniforms. Check them out here: