Pitt men’s basketball holds off Marshall for 112-106 win


Sheldon Jeter launches in the air for a massive dunk. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

The Pitt men’s basketball team wrapped up its nonconference schedule by continuing a familiar trend for the 2016 season — jumping out to an enormous lead, then barely scraping by for a win.

The Panthers (11-2) led by 29 points with less than 15 minutes to play, but the Thundering Herd (7-6) stormed back with 57 points in the final 14:09 to make it a five-point game in the final minute. In the end, Pitt held on for a 112-106 win at the Petersen Events Center behind 30 points apiece from seniors Michael Young and Jamel Artis.

The 112 points amounted to the Panthers’ highest-scoring game in more than 20 years — they also dropped 112 on Youngstown State on Nov. 27, 1993 — and their first time scoring more than 100 against a Division I opponent in the 21st century. Pitt last cracked the century mark against a Division I school in a 102-78 win over Norfolk State on Dec. 1, 1999.

The Panthers’ shooters started out hot from the opening tip, and they never really cooled off.

Young and sophomore guard Cameron Johnson buried a pair of 3-pointers to give Pitt a 6-0 lead, then Johnson hit another three to make it 11-4. Before long the Panthers’ lead reached double digits when a 3-pointer from Artis made it 18-8.

Pitt’s lead grew to 20 on another 3-pointer by Johnson with just under four minutes left in the half, and junior guard Jonathan Milligan drained a three of his own just before the half to give the Panthers a 58-38 halftime lead.

Senior forward Sheldon Jeter — who racked up a season-high 21 points on the night — hit a three early in the second half, and Young followed with a layup to push Pitt’s advantage to 26. A jumper by Milligan gave the Panthers their largest lead of the game at 78-49 with 14:35 to play.

Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings subbed Artis out of the game after Milligan’s bucket, then took Young out with a little more than 13 minutes left and the Panthers holding a 79-55 lead.

As anyone who has followed this team’s first 12 games would know, though, this game was far from over. The Herd started chipping away, cutting Pitt’s lead to 18 at 83-65 with 10:25 to play.

Young reentered the game and gave the Panthers a boost, as his steal led to a dunk by Johnson. Johnson then assisted Young on a dunk of his own, and Jeter made it three slams in a row by turning a steal into a fastbreak dunk.

Just like that, Pitt stretched its lead to 90-67 lead with a little over nine minutes left, but Marshall went on a 10-2 run to narrow the gap to 15 with 6:40 to play. The Herd’s potent offense continued to heat up as the clock ticked down, and a 3-pointer by Marshall guard C.J. Burks made it a 10-point game with 4:49 left in regulation.

A pair of free throws from Young and a jumper from Artis gave the Panthers 100 points on the night and a 14-point lead at the final media timeout with 3:55 to play. But three straight baskets by the Herd made it 100-92 with 2:07 left.

The teams took turns taking trips to the foul line, and two free throws from Burks made it 107-100 Pitt with 44 seconds remaining. Artis then turned the ball over, and Marshall forward Ryan Taylor converted a layup to shrink the deficit to five with 39 seconds on the clock.

With both teams continuing to send each other to the foul line, all the Panthers had to do was make their shots to hold off the Herd’s comeback. Artis made a pair with 33 seconds left, then Young added two more with 23 seconds left to effectively seal the 112-106 victory.

After concluding its nonconference schedule at 11-2, Pitt will begin ACC play on New Year’s Eve against the No. 24 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Tipoff at the Pete is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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