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Artis’ 32 points propels Pitt past Bryant

By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

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Behind 32 points from forward Jamel Artis, Pitt held on against underdog Bryant to pick up a 72-67 win.

The game was a sly trap for the Panthers, a non-conference matchup smacked in between their win against top-10 Notre Dame this past weekend and their upcoming game versus ACC rival Syracuse on Saturday.

“Defensively the scheme I put in early was not the right scheme,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “I wish we played better, but we played well down the stretch… [Bryant] is dangerous.”

A loss would have been an unthinkable blemish on Pitt’s tournament resumé, and it didn’t come easy, as Bryant surprisingly tested Pitt all the way to the final buzzer.

“Today, our defense wasn’t that great, but we still came out with a win,” Artis said. 

The Bulldogs came into the game 10-10 on the year, but have been playing much better in the conference season with a 7-3 record in the NEC.  

Bryant’s game plan was clear from the early going, passing the ball around the perimeter and finding open shooters through excellent floor spacing. The strategy worked early, as they made four out of their first five from beyond the arc and took an eight-point lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Guard Dyami Starks led the Bulldogs early, scoring 11 of their first 23 points, including two 3-pointers.

The hot shooting cooled down as Pitt took off with a 9-0 run fueled by two steals and breakaway dunks by senior guard Cam Wright.  

Bryant’s offense crashed, and the Panthers controlled the glass for the majority of the half, which contributed heavily to their limited halftime deficit despite the Bulldogs’ 51 percent shooting. 

The Bulldogs responded to Pitt’s run with a 14-4 run of their own to put themselves up a point to end the half. Bryant players entered the locker room shouting “ACC who?” and the Panthers were in for an unexpected fight in the second half. 

“We had some defensive mistakes with the switches,” sophomore guard Josh Newkirk said. “We just made our runs, too.”

Artis led all Pitt scorers in the half with 10 and continued his recent hot shooting, making more than 60 percent of his shots over the last five games.

Bryant began the second half on a 5-0 run to push the lead to six, eliciting moans and groans from the sparse Petersen Events Center crowd. Pitt responded with four straight buckets from Artis to tie the game in an eventful few opening minutes.

In all, Artis scored six out Pitt’s first seven baskets of the second half while attacking the Bulldogs’ zone defense, including two straight threes to give them an eight-point lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game.

“[Artis] is great at attacking the zone,” Newkirk said. “He attacks the open spots and gaps in the zone, and we did a great job finding him in there.”

The Panthers’ power forward could turn into the go-to player the team has been lacking this season.

“I guess with 32 that’s a pretty good sign,” Dixon said. “We’re looking for him … That mid-range release is a rare skill.”

The two teams continued to answer each other with back and forth runs, with neither able to grab a considerable edge on the scoreboard until late in the contest.

Redshirt sophomore guard Chris Jones gave Pitt a one-point lead with a minute remaining after corralling a bad pass to make an open jump shot from the wing. On Bryant’s next possession, Jones came up big again, reading a bad pass and coming up with a steal.

Wright then hit a jump shot with 15 seconds left, putting the Panthers up three. Electing to play straight-up defense rather than foul, Pitt allowed Starks to put up a three from straight away which clanked off the rim, sealing the Panthers’ 15th win of the season.

Artis’ 32 points set a new career high, and was the sophomore’s fourth 20-point-plus game in the last five contests. Point guard James Robinson pitched in with nine assists, while big man Michael Young notched a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Panthers will look to extend their winning streak at home against Syracuse on Saturday. Tip-off at the Petersen Events Center is scheduled for noon.

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Artis’ 32 points propels Pitt past Bryant