Pitt survives close call against Western Carolina 79-73

By Dan Sostek / Sports Editor

It was a closer game than expected, but the Pitt men’s basketball team surmounted the Western Carolina Catamounts Wednesday evening.

The Panthers edged out Western Carolina by a score of 79-73 at the Petersen Events Center, boosted by a season-best 29 points by junior forward Jamel Artis.

Pitt’s leading scorer Michael Young opened up the offense for Pitt, tallying a basket just over a minute into the first half.

But following a Jamel Artis layup that gave Pitt a 4-0 lead, Torrian Brummitt converted two consecutive and-ones and Rhett Harrelson swished a three-pointer to give the Catamounts a 9-4 lead with 16:09 remaining in the first half.

Following a Jamie Dixon timeout, Brummitt converted on a stepback, giving Western Carolina an 11-4 lead. The lead grew to as large as 16-8, but the Panthers diminishing the deficit, as a Jamel Artis and-one layup shrunk the Catamounts’ lead to 16-15 prior to the 12 minute timeout.

Sheldon Jeter gave Pitt their first lead since 4-0, converting an open jumper from the top of the key to give Pitt a 17-16 lead.

With 9:16 remaining Ryan Luther snared a block and fed the ball down court to James Robinson, who spun and wriggled in the paint, finishing a layup while Catamounts center Mike Brown fouled him in the process. He nailed the free throw, giving Pitt a 26-20 lead.

Pitt retained their lead but could not extend it, as Harrelson proved troublesome for the Panthers, finishing the half with 12 points.

Thanks to a late dunk by graduate transfer Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, Pitt entered intermission with a 37-32 lead.

Pitt turned the ball over to start the second half, and Harrelson made them pay, draining a 3-point shot.

But Jamel Artis jabbed back with two straight buckets, bolstering Pitt’s lead to seven points.

Harrelson kept converting, as he would answer a Jamel Artis three — Pitt’s first of the game, coming with 15:32 remaining — with one of his own, as he was draped by Pitt defenders well beyond the arc and still managed to hit the shot.

The Catamounts regained the lead with 10:51 remaining, as a 7-0 run capped by a Charlendez Brooks lay in propelled them to their first advantage since the early in the first half.

Pitt regained the lead moments later, as Young converted two free throws with 10:15 left.

But the Catamounts retook the advantage right after, as Devin Peterson capitalized off of a James Robinson turnover to give Western Carolina a one-point lead.

Elijah Pughsley extended that lead to seven thanks to two straight 3-pointers and a pair of free throws.

The deficit shrunk to two thank to a midrange jumper by Sheldon Jeter, and Jamel Artis tied the game moments later at 61 with a finger-roll floater with 4:51 left.

Justin Browning quieted an energized Petersen Events Center crowd directly after, finishing an and-one to give Western Carolina a three point lead.

Pitt and West Carolina continued to trade points, as a pair of James Robinson free throws left the score 66-65 Western Carolina with just over three minutes left.

Chris Jones would give Pitt the lead soon after, connecting on his first long distance shot of the night to give Pitt a 68-66 advantage with 2:37 left.

Jeter provided some padding on the lead, slamming a dunk while forward Marc Gosselin fouled him, converting the free throw to give Pitt a 71-66 lead.

The Panthers eventually won by a final score of 72-, improving their record to 10-1 on the season.

Pitt opens ACC play next week, as they host the Syracuse Orange on Wednesday, Dec. 30. Tip-off is scheduled for 9 p.m.