Pitt's Michael Young gets a shot up against Virginia's Devon Hall in the first half Wednesday.
Pitt's Chris Jones, Jamel Artis and Michael Young celebrate a play against Virginia in the second half Wednesday at the Petersen Events Center.
By Craig Meyer / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pitt’s matchup against Virginia Wednesday night was very nearly a disaster, a cruel dose of deja vu involving a memory the Panthers would just soon forget, even though it happened just four days earlier.
Not even a week after losing a heartbreaker of an overtime game to Notre Dame on a 3-pointer in the final five seconds, Pitt was again sent to overtime after the Cavaliers’ London Perrantes buried a 3 from the top of the key with 2.4 seconds remaining. The specifics of the two scenarios weren’t identical, but the situations were remarkably similar.
In a position he admitted was a desperate one, coach Kevin Stallings gathered his team and delivered a message.
“We can sit here and feel sorry for ourselves or we can man up and do something about it,” he said.
With a 0-2 start in ACC play staring squarely and menacingly at them — a mark that was 4.9 seconds away from being 2-0 — the Panthers opted for the latter. Jamel Artis and Mike Young combined for 43 points — 24 and 19, respectively — and Pitt captured its biggest win of Stallings’ 15-game tenure with an 88-76 victory in overtime against No. 11 Virginia at Petersen Events Center.
“It’s big,” forward Sheldon Jeter said. “It shows we learned a lot from Saturday. We dug down defensively, we took our time and got good shots offensively, and we didn’t drop our head when they hit the shot at the end of regulation. We came together. That’s something a lot of people said we haven’t done in the past. I think we did that today.”
The win marked Pitt’s first win against Virginia since joining the ACC in 2013 and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Cavaliers (11-3, 1-2 ACC) in the series. Its 88 points were the most Virginia has allowed in a game since February 2013.
The recipe to beating the Cavaliers — something that has been a tall task for much of the ACC and college basketball the past several years — is relatively straightforward: make enough outside shots and you have a chance.
The Panthers (12-3, 1-1 ACC) did just that, shooting 53.7 percent as a team and making 61.9 percent of their 3-pointers against a pack line defense that allows little to no dribble penetration to the basket. Jeter and Cam Johnson each added 16 points, giving Pitt, which played just seven players, four in double figures.
“You see how well they shoot it from the five spot, the four spot, Jeter shoots it,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “Obviously, Artis and Young can shoot it, and Luther. They’re certainly a terrific shooting team. Many guys shoot 40 percent, they run good offense and we didn’t do a good job. Obviously, a few times they were contested, but a talented offensive team, no doubt.”
Pitt led for much of the game and held a three-point advantage heading into the final 10 seconds. Young missed a contested jumper as the shot clock was expiring. Virginia collected the rebound and Perrantes, who finished with a team-high 16 points, pulled up from deep and evened the score. Stallings had told his players, with a three-point lead, to foul the Cavaliers if they had the ball with fewer than five seconds remaining, something he took responsibility for after the game.
In the extra session, Jeter took control and Pitt’s defense tightened. The senior forward and Beaver Falls graduate, a 32.1 percent shooter from 3 on the season, made two 3s to give the Panthers a six-point lead, which Artis extended to nine one possession later with under three minutes to go.
Against one of the best rebounding teams in the country, one that rarely allows second-chance points, Pitt outrebounded Virginia, 42-24, including a 12-6 advantage on offensive rebounds. From those offensive boards, the Panthers got 21 second-chance points.
The win exorcised some personal demons for Pitt against Virginia and provided something of a lift days after a loss that easily could have deflated the veteran team during its most difficult stretch of the season.
“Every time we played them, we felt like we were in the game and there was a point in time where we kind of came apart,” Jeter said. “We flipped the script. We stayed together, stayed working together and that’s why we won.”
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.
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