PETERSEN EVENTS CENTER--Call it a test. Call it Roy McAvoy’s “defining moment” or Guru’s “moment of truth.”
Heading into Wednesday night’s contest at the Petersen Events Center between Pitt and no. 11 Virginia, the only thing known about the Panthers was the unknown.
But Pitt fans were gifted some assurance heading into the heart of ACC play as the Panthers overcame an uncanny effort from the Cavaliers, which included a cold-blooded, game-tying 3-pointer towards the end of regulation by their floor general London Perrantes, and Pitt showed some 9,814 in attendance what it is capable of doing in an 88-76 overtime win.
With the eyes of NBA scouts watching, Pitt’s senior leaders Michael Young and Jamel Artis would not snooze. The tandem combined for 43 points, with Artis draining 6 of 7 from beyond the arc.
But it meant more to the program than just a win over any old marquee opponent. The Panthers had dropped seven straight contests against Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers, who have proven to be a perennial powerhouse and ACC title contender for the majority of his seven-year tenure. Virginia entered the game allowing opponents to score just 48.6 points per game, but Pitt had surpassed that mark with 13 minutes left in regulation. Pitt, too, took full advantage of Virginia’s last-place ACC ranking in rebounding margin, as the Panthers reeled in 42 rebounds to UVA’s 24.
But it was the Panthers’ nearly-unconscious 13 for 21 (62 percent) shooting from outside the 3-point line that kept the Pete buzzing all night long.
“They’re certainly a terrific shooting team,” Bennett said after the game. “We didn’t do a good job at times contesting it.”
Bennett’s squad was rated the no. 2 team in KenPom.com’s adjusted defensive efficiency stat prior to Wednesday.
Sheldon Jeter hit two 3-pointers a minute and a half into the overtime period, and Jamel Artis followed with one of his own to put the Panthers out to a 79-70 lead.
Jeter has come into form recently, too, with 43 points and 31 rebounds in the last three games. It didn’t come without struggle, however, as Jeter was unable to get into an offensive rhythm before Christmas.
“Sheldon Jeter shot 39 percent from 3 for me when he was a freshman. I haven’t stopped believing in him,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said after the game. “His rebounding effort has made a huge difference for this team in the past three games.”
Pitt (12-3, 1-1 ACC) travels to take on Syracuse on Saturday at the Carrier Dome. The Orange cruised past a previously 11-2 Miami squad Wednesday 70-55. Tip is set for noon.