Pitt's Jamel Artis shoots against Notre Dame in the first half of Saturday's game, another ACC victory for the Panthers.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — The way Pitt is playing basketball these days can be described many ways, but perhaps the best on would be this:
High Octane Basketball.
OK, sorry, Pitt fans, that phrase probably evokes bad memories of some dark days in the football program not too long ago — but unlike that high-octane team, this one actually does play fast and score lots of points.
Saturday, the Panthers were at it again as they started fast, then buckled their seat belts and held on for dear life for an 86-82 victory against Notre Dame at Joyce Center.
“That is a really gifted offensive group,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “They had an answer for everything. They are really, really good.
“[Pitt coach] Jamie [Dixon] has done a great job reinventing; they are an offensive group right now. You have to give Pitt credit — they have reinvented themselves philosophically. We didn’t think we were going to shut them down, we were just hoping we could curb that a little bit, but not today.”
Notre Dame is an excellent offensive team, as well, and its numbers suggest the Irish likely should have won the game considering they shot 54 percent from the floor, 45 percent from the 3-point line and only turned the ball over three times.
But that only further shows just how good the Panthers were offensively. In both halves, they built leads of 18 points as they shot 53 percent from the floor and 50 percent (10 of 20) from 3-point range.
And the biggest difference between the two teams was the Panthers frontcourt trio of Jamel Artis, Michael Young and Sheldon Jeter — virtually unstoppable at times throughout the game and combined to score 62 points and dish seven assists.
“We didn’t come into the game thinking we were going to be able to score all those points,” Young said of those three forwards. “But the points came. I started off hot, Sheldon came off the bench hot and Jamel was knocking them down all game.
“But with our size and our depth in the frontcourt, we knew we would have a good chance to outmatch those guys just because they only played two of their frontcourt guys the whole game.”
The Panthers (14-1, 3-0 ACC) started quick, as they went right to Young, who finished with 25 points, early and often and he scored seven points in their 10-0 run to open the game.
That forced a timeout by Notre Dame (10-5, 1-2), but it didn’t help as the onslaught by the Panthers offense continued. When Chris Jones hit a 3-pointer with 12:04 to play in the first half, it put Pitt ahead, 28-10.
But Irish star Demetrius Jackson had other ideas and he hit 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions, with the fourth pulling the Irish to within 33-22 with 8:46 to play.
Artis hit a 3-pointer with 4:39 to play in the half to push the Panthers lead to 42-31 and he hit another with 1:43 to play to keep them ahead by 11 at 47-36.
But Notre Dame made a 7-0 run over the next minute to pull to within 47-43 before Jeter closed the first-half scoring with two free throws for a 49-43 halftime lead.
Young picked up his second and third fouls late in the half and Dixon started the second half with Jeter, who finished with 18, instead of Young.
Jeter picked up where Young left off and the Panthers quickly made a 9-2 run and led, 58-45, after a transition 3-pointer by Artis with 17 minutes left.
“Sheldon is going to be in close games, and for obvious reasons,” Dixon said. “We feel like he is one of our five, and we like what he gives us. When we had Mike out or Jamel out, we have Sheldon in there who can score, so it is a good balance.
“He makes free throws, he is rebounding more and more — he is doing all those things, and like I said, that’s why we consider him one of our five.”
Pitt stretched that lead to 68-52 after a layup by Jeter with 13:14 to play, which was impressive considering the Panthers did it with Young on the bench.
Notre Dame mounted two furious comebacks, but in both cases, it just didn’t have enough to get all the way back.
The Irish made an 11-0 run and pulled to within 73-68 with 6:30 to play, but the Panthers went right back to Young and he got fouled on consecutive plays.
Young made 3 of 4 free throws to push the Panthers lead to 76-68 with 5:53 to play, then after Jackson missed a 3-pointer, Young dished it to Jeter for a dunk and free throw and a 79-68 lead.
Pitt tried to run the clock and it cost them as the Irish forced attempts late in the shot clock and made a 9-0 run over a 2:57 span. That pulled the Irish to within 79-77 with 1:56 left on a fastbreak layup by Steve Vasturia.
The Irish did have a chance to tie the score with 14 seconds to play, but Matt Ryan’s open 3-pointer missed and the Panthers got the rebound and held on for an exciting win.
Paul Zeise: email@example.com and Twitter @paulzeise.
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