Pitt men’s basketball manages double-OT victory against Eastern Michigan, 93-90

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Pitt men’s basketball manages double-OT victory against Eastern Michigan, 93-90

Jamel Artis (1) scored 27 points against Eastern Michigan on Friday night at the Petersen Events Center. John Hamilton | Staff Photographer

Jamel Artis (1) scored 27 points against Eastern Michigan on Friday night at the Petersen Events Center. John Hamilton | Staff Photographer

Jamel Artis (1) scored 27 points against Eastern Michigan on Friday night at the Petersen Events Center. John Hamilton | Staff Photographer

Jamel Artis (1) scored 27 points against Eastern Michigan on Friday night at the Petersen Events Center. John Hamilton | Staff Photographer

By Dan Sostek | Senior Staff Writer

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It wasn’t pretty, but in his first game, Kevin Stallings wasn’t looking for pretty.

“This isn’t an art contest, it’s a math contest, baby,” Stallings said. “And we added up more than they did.”

In a game that took two extra periods to decide, the Pitt men’s basketball team defeated the Eastern Michigan Eagles 93-90 in its season opener and first game under new head coach Kevin Stallings.

“Very happy for my team,“ Stallings said. “And despite what anyone else might think, I’m very proud of them.”

Senior Michael Young scored Pitt’s first points of the regular season, nailing a long jumper on the Panthers’ first possession.

Pitt senior Jamel Artis gave the Panthers the lead after the team, scoring his team’s first three pointer of the season with 14:52 left in the first half.

The Panthers first two substitution off the bench were junior Ryan Luther and first-year Justice Kithcart, then later guard Jonathan Milligan and Damon Wilson, revealing his full nine-man rotation for the first time.

With the score sitting at 16-12, Chris Jones broke away and slammed Pitt’s first dunk of the season. But Pitt didn’t get back in transition, allowing an alley oop on Eastern Michigan’s next possession.

As the first half neared its end, Eastern Michigan eked closer, as a layup by Ray Lee brought the Eagles within two, after trailing by as much as nine. But a 7-0 run, fueled by Kithcart’s first career three-pointer basket, gave Pitt a 40-31 heading into halftime.

Thanks to two turnovers by Pitt, Eastern Michigan opened up the half on a 9-2 run, cutting the Panther advantage to two.

A fadeaway jumper by Artis, and back-to-back threes by Jeter and Artis, gave Pitt some breathing room as the Panthers took a game-high 10 point lead at the first media timeout of the second half.

The two teams traded buckets for a good portion of the half. The lead grew even larger when Artis hit his fourth three of the game, giving the Panthers a 12-point advantage and him his first 20 point game of the season.

Following that Artis three, Pitt went cold, as Eastern Michigan put together a 10-0 run to bring the score to within two points. That run was aided by a trio of Young turnovers, who finished with seven on the evening.

“We got up 12 and the zone kind of rattled us a little bit,” Young said.

With the score sitting at 66-64 with just over two minutes remaining, Artis took a deep three with the chance of extending the lead to five. He missed, then fouled Lee on the other side of the court. Lee made both free throws, tying the game at 66 with 2:16 remaining.

“I don’t think it was a let down,” Young said. “At that point we didn’t really get good shots against their zone. A few turnovers maybe led to that run. I think it was more on us.”

But after Artis missed a risky three, Johnson nailed one, as the redshirt sophomore banked a long range shot in with 2:09 left, to give Pitt a 69-66 advantage.

Jones netted a floater on Pitt’s next possession as the lead grew to five. But Eastern Michigan‘s Tim Bond hit a three with 56 seconds left to bring the Eagles within two.

Bond then drew a foul on Sheldon Jeter, which gave him a chance to hit two free throws to tie the game with 13 seconds left in the half. He would only hit one, and the Eagles trailed by one before fouling Young, who would make one of two to extend the lead back to two.

That lead wouldn’t be large enough, as Eastern Michigan’s Ty Toney diced through Pitt’s defense to lay the ball in to tie the game at 72 with 1.5 seconds left in regulation.

“Late in the game, [Eastern Michigan] just started going one on one,” Stallings said. “We became very man conscious instead of concerning ourselves with the ball. And we were just getting driven and layed-up on.”

Jamel Artis missed a three-quarters court heave, and the teams headed into overtime.

Pitt took 33 threes while only making 8, but Artis said that was a product of its opponent, who played a 2-3 zone.

“That’s what we have to do against the zone,” Artis said. “You have to shoot the ball against the zone. We won’t do that in a regular game. When teams play man, we’ll drive.”

Pitt scored first in overtime, as Chris Jones hit two free throws following an over-the-back foul off a rebound by Thompson IV.

But Eastern Michigan took its first lead of the game as Lee hit a layup while Johnson fouled him, converting the and-one to give the Eagles a 75-74 advantage.

The lead grew to three as Lee converted two more free throws with 3:40 left in the period.

After trading baskets and free throws, Pitt evened the game as Young rattled in a midrange jumper with 1:38 left in the game.

Lee would respond to give the Eagles another lead, swishing a turnaround fadeaway with 1:11 left, but Young answered that, as he converted a layup while Baylee Steele fouled him.

The three-point play gave Pitt an 82-81 lead with 55 seconds left in overtime, but it wouldn’t last long, as Lee hit another jumper to give the visitors a one-point advantage with 41.7 seconds left.

On Pitt’s next possession, Artis drew a foul. He hit one of two free throws, tying the game at 83 with 32 seconds left in the period.

Eastern Michigan had a chance for the win, but Lee airballed a long three pointer with 6.4 seconds left, giving Pitt an opportunity to avoid a second overtime.

The Panthers were unable to convert, as Sheldon Jeter airballed a three of his own, and the two teams head into double overtime.

Nick Madray of Eastern Michigan was the first to score in the second overtime period, making two free throws. Young would hit two of his own to answer for Pitt.

Sheldon Jeter would give the Panthers the lead with 3:17 left in overtime off an assist by Kithcart, draining a midrange jumper.

With 1:45 left, Jones would draw a foul and converted two more free throws, expanding Pitt’s lead to 89-85.

A Lee layup would cut the Pitt lead back to two with 23 seconds remaining, but Artis hit two more foul shots on the Panthers’ next possession, returning the lead to four.

Lee would not relent, though, as he hit a contested three to diminish the deficit to just one before Toney fouled Artis, who would go to the line for two more free throws. Artis hit both, and the Panther took the game 93-90.

“I thought Jamel was really terrific,” Stallings said. “His foul shooting was great, made big ones there at the end. You expect seniors to make plays.”

Artis led Pitt with 27 points, while Young was right behind with 26. They hauled in nine and 10 rebounds, respectively.

“Being seniors, it’s our last go around,” Young said. “So we want to make sure we have a touch on anything that happens.”

Lee finished with 27 points of his own for the Eagles.

Pitt continues its season on Monday, as it hosts Gardner-Webb at the Petersen Events Center at 7 p.m.

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