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Pitt looks to rebound against BC in second straight road game

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Pitt looks to rebound against BC in second straight road game

By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

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As the Pittsburgh Panthers men’s basketball team readies for its second consecutive ACC road game to begin conference play, starting forward Jamel Artis knows that the team needs to play with an increased sense of urgency.

“When you play on the road, you’ve got to play with more energy,” Artis said. “You’ve got to play with more intensity. You’ve got to execute that much better than when you’re at home.”

That knowledge didn’t help Pitt in its first road ACC game on Saturday, as the team lost to North Carolina State University 68-50. After briefly holding an early 6-1 lead, the NC State Wolfpack gained the lead and never relinquished it en route to handing Pitt its fourth loss this year.

“I thought we should have been up more,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said of the initial lead. “It seemed that we came out ready to go and executing well. Then, it seemed to get away from us.”

Now the Panthers (10-4, 0-1 ACC) travel again on Tuesday — this time, they face the Boston College Eagles (7-5, 0-1 ACC) at 9 p.m.

Boston College lost its only conference game so far by 85-62 to Duke on Saturday. Before traveling to Durham, N.C., the Eagles had won four out of their last five games, with the lone loss during that span coming by four points to USC.

A focus on execution will be crucial, Artis said, if Pitt wants to even its conference record.

“We’ve just gotta pay more attention to detail and sustain our energy, our intensity and our focus throughout the whole game,” the sophomore forward said.

Artis led Pitt in scoring with 13 points on Saturday and ranks third on the team this season with 9.5 points per game, as well as placing second on the team with 5.1 rebounds per game.

Dixon said his team will have to be smarter with the ball for the rest of the season, especially concerning how and when they choose to take shots.

“Shot selection and impatience — that was a big part of it,” Dixon said. “We had nine shots blocked [against North Carolina State]. Those are generally not good shots, and that’s a pretty good indicator.”

He added that poor shots impact other parts of the game, too.

“When you don’t take good shots, generally you’re not going to get a good offensive rebounding opportunity,” he said.

Junior Olivier Hanlan leads the Eagles with 16 points per game and 4.2 assists per game. Pitt struggled in the paint on Saturday and will try to attack the boards this game, as Boston College ranks 243rd in the country in rebounding with 33.4 rebounds per game.

Sophomore forward Michael Young said North Carolina State’s defense last game presented a challenge for the Panthers that the team will try to correct moving forward.

“If I caught the ball anywhere near the paint, they were [double-teaming] me,” said Young, who scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds on Saturday. “From the opening tip until the end of the game, they were doubling me, so [scoring] was going to be kind of hard for me.”

Dixon repeated the message that Artis gave after the loss, also telling his team that “we’re a better team than what we played.”

“[Boston College] is our emphasis going forward. We can’t dwell on this game,” he said. “We didn’t play to our capabilities, and we’re extremely disappointed in that.”

Part of that disappointment came from Pitt’s defense in the game, an aspect that has been somewhat unsatisfactory at the start of the season, with the Panthers ranking 68th in the nation in points per game allowed, despite a relatively weak non-conference schedule.

“The defense has always got to be there. That’s what we’re striving for,” Dixon said. “That’s got to be the constant.”

So far this season, the Panthers are allowing 61.1 points per game, ranking 68th in the country.

Pitt may have an opportunity to improve that ranking against a Boston College team that only ranks 195th in the country in scoring, including the 62-point performance against Duke.

Pitt also has a vastly different roster from BC, in terms of age proportions. Boston College has eight seniors on its roster compared to three for Pitt, though only Pitt guard Cameron Wright starts out of that group.

Boston College head coach Jim Christian said those experienced players help the team perform, especially graduate students Aaron Brown and Dimitri Batten.

“They’ve had a positive influence on everybody,” Christian said. “They’ve brought a toughness to our basketball team. They’ve done a great job, when they first got here, of getting together with the guys and getting to know them.”

With only one true freshman on the team — Idy Diallo — Christian will have to revamp the roster once this season ends. 

Before that, the Eagles will face the Panthers on Tuesday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m.


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Pitt looks to rebound against BC in second straight road game