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Pitt basketball notebook: Jeter nears return - The Pitt News

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Pitt basketball notebook: Jeter nears return

Sheldon+Jeter+launches+in+the+air+for+a+massive+dunk.++Jeff+Ahearn+%7C+Senior+Staff+Photographer
Sheldon Jeter launches in the air for a massive dunk.  Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

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

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

By Dan Sotek / Sports Editor

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Riding high off a comeback victory on the road against the Florida State Seminoles Saturday, the Pitt men’s basketball team heads south once again.

In preparation for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. contest against Clemson University in Greenville, head coach Jamie Dixon, Sterling Smith and Jamel Artis met with the media to discuss preparing for Sheldon Jeter’s return, close game situations and their matchup against the Tigers.

JETER NEARS RETURN

The Pitt community was surprised to discover shortly before Saturday’s game that Jeter, Pitt’s top bench scorer, wouldn’t be suiting up for the Panthers-Florida State matchup. He suffered a concussion during practice earlier in the week.

Fortunately for the Panthers, Ryan Luther filled in admirably for Jeter Saturday, playing tough defense and snagging an offensive rebound that he would kick out to Artis for the go-ahead 3-pointer.

“It’s next man up,’’ Artis said of Luther’s performance. “Ryan Luther came in and played major minutes. He contributed very well to the team.”

According to Dixon, Jeter is currently progressing well through the team’s concussion protocol.

“[Jeter] was able to run up and down, he did some of that yesterday, too,” Dixon said Monday afternoon. “Tomorrow he should be able to practice.”

Dixon is optimistic about Jeter’s chances of playing on Wednesday.

“We anticipate him being ready for Clemson,” Dixon said. “He should be able to go for that one.”

Everyone else on the roster is “pretty healthy,” Dixon said.

Jeter averages 8.1 points and 5.4 rebounds on the year, shooting 51.4 percent from the field.

Even with Luther’s solid output on Saturday, Artis knows that Jeter’s return is crucial for Pitt.

“Hopefully [Jeter] comes back against Clemson,” Artis said. “We need him.”

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

Throughout the 2015-2016 season, Dixon and the Panthers have played in their share of close games, in wins — Florida State, Syracuse and Georgia Tech — and losses — Purdue — alike.

Their most recent victory over the Seminoles also followed another trend for the Panthers: storming back from an early deficit.

Dixon acknowledged his team’s propensity for making games close after falling behind early, like it did against Florida State, who held a 10 point lead with 45 seconds left in the first half.

“We had a couple of times when we went down, and obviously we made comebacks,” Dixon said. “Like Purdue and NC State, where he had dug such a hole that it was good to be able to come back. So we’ve shown the ability to come back.”

Both of those contests saw the Panthers fall behind even greater deficits than the 10 points against Florida State. Purdue led by as much as 17 in the first half, while NC State’s advantage was as large as 28 points. Pitt took the lead against Purdue before falling to the team in December, and dwindled NC State’s lead to 14 last week before losing by 17.

Artis credits the team’s confidence to their penchant for fighting back, but admitted the early lapses are not ideal.

“Some guys get down and they shut down,” Artis said. “I think our team, we always know that we’re gonna come back, even if we’re in [a bad] situation. We don’t like to be in that situation but we know that we’re gonna come back, and the key is to get more stops and get the offensive rebounds.”

The Panthers did just that on Saturday, forcing eight turnovers and snagging six offensive rebounds — including Luther’s impactful one — in the win.

Dixon said the team was thrilled to return home with the victory.

“They’re very excited. They have a lot of emotion after a win,” Dixon said. “Road wins are just fun, and the travel back [is fun]. They handled it well. We needed a win like that.”

EYES ON THE TIGERS

Last January, Clemson came to the Petersen Events Center and shocked the Panthers, serving up a 71-62 loss in which the team outrebounded Pitt by 15.

But Dixon doesn’t see much use in looking back at that matchup.

“That was 100 games ago,” Dixon said. “Different personnel.”

This Clemson team is more accomplished than last season’s, particularly at home, where it is undefeated in ACC play and sports wins over ranked opponents Louisville, Duke and Miami.

A few key Clemson players return from that contest last season, most notably Jaron Blossomgame, the Tigers’ leading scorer who averages 16.4 points per game, good for 12th in the conference.

Dixon said Clemson’s star forward will be a key in the game.

“Blossomgame obviously stands out to me,” Dixon said. “They’ve got experienced guys on the inside. They’re playing very good basketball.”

Artis, who will likely see some time defending Blossomgame, discussed some of the Tigers star’s tendencies.

“He’s a very good mid-range player. Good, physical guy,” Artis said. “We know what we’re going to have to do. They’re going to pick and pop a lot. He’s going to go early on ball screens so we’re ready for that. It’s team defense, not just one man to shut him down. All five of us on the floor.”

As per usual, Dixon emphasized the importance of winning on the glass against Clemson. Pitt has yet to lose a game this season when hauling in more boards than its opponent.

“We’ve got to win games by outrebounding people,” Dixon said. “If we don’t, we put ourselves in a bad position. You can only be good at so many things, and if you’re good at something and you don’t do that well [in a game], you’re going to be in a bad position.”

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Pitt basketball notebook: Jeter nears return