Former Panther Artis comes up empty in TBT championship, despite strong performance


TPN File Photo

Former Pitt guard Jamel Artis took the court Tuesday Night in The Basketball Tournament championship game.

By Alex Lehmbeck, Senior Staff Writer

As professional sports leagues prepare for tightly monitored seasons, former Pitt guard Jamel Artis has taken the court this July in one of the first returns to organized basketball.

Despite his best performance of The Basketball Tournament, Artis couldn’t will his squad to victory in the $1-million winner-take-all championship. The Golden Eagles defeated Sideline Cancer 78-73 in a back-and-forth thriller. The Basketball Tournament is a single-elimination contest that anyone can apply to join. Some teams are composed of a given university’s alumni, while others gather around charity causes.

Sideline Cancer, a charity-inspired team, featured a mix-and-match assortment of former college stars. Had they won the prize, a significant portion of their winnings would’ve gone toward the Griffith Foundation, an organization dedicated to the fight against pancreatic cancer.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, TBT reduced the number of teams from 64 to 24 and moved from nine locations to one, requiring full quarantining and sanitation practices by players and staff.

Sideline Cancer’s path to the championship featured a deluge of upsets. Entering as the No. 22 seed, the team came out the gate with two close early-round victories. Next, they defeated the Syracuse alumni in Boheim’s Army and knocked off former NBA superstar Joe Johnson’s Overseas Elite off of a game-winning three in the semifinals.

The string of wins set up a rematch of last year’s bout, when the Golden Eagles, composed of Marquette alumni, ended Sideline Cancer’s Cinderella run in the Wichita Region Final. The Golden Eagles would go on to lose in the 2019 championship, but converted their opportunity a year later.

Throughout the tournament, Artis remained in the team’s starting lineup, but rarely emerged as a scoring threat, instead serving as a consistent presence on the glass. The 6-foot-7 guard showed off his offensive repertoire Tuesday, scoring six points in the first quarter off of some strong finishes around the rim to claw into the Golden Eagles’ early lead.

As the teams exchanged leads in the third quarter, Artis quietly knocked down a mid-range fadeaway and short floater to put Sideline Cancer ahead by one entering the final period. His acrobatic finish as the shot clock wound down, followed by a three on the team’s next possession, put Sideline Cancer ahead by three late in the fourth quarter. But he missed his final three shots of the night, as the Golden Eagles’ defense earned the win in the final stretch.

Artis finished with 17 points on 7-14 shooting, adding six rebounds and two assists. Although he scored more than any opposing player, a balanced effort saw four Golden Eagles score at least 15 points each, enough to combat Sideline Cancer’s top-heavy performances.
While at Pitt, Artis became the third player in program history to score at least 1,600 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists in his career. His 43-point game against Louisville is the highest scoring road performance ever for Pitt men’s basketball.