‘Sense of urgency’ pushes Pitt past Boston College, 71-65
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
Shortly after the new year, the Pitt Panthers narrowly edged Boston College in overtime on a snowy night in Chestnut Hill, Ma., behind 15 points apiece from Josh Newkirk and Michael Young.
The game was also Sheldon Jeter’s coming-out party. Jeter, who had previously ridden the bench because of poor defensive showings in consecutive games, scored 11 points. On the contrary, Jamel Artis, who has blossomed into Pitt’s most reliable scoring threat as of late, finished with just four points with five turnovers. Chris Jones started that game for the Panthers, and Joseph Uchebo played for roughly half the contest.
Fast forward six weeks. The same Pitt team faced Boston College Wednesday on another blistering night – this time at the Petersen Events Center – but those players have been executing a different style of basketball in recent weeks. Jamel Artis, who has averaged 20 points in Pitt’s last 12 games, scored 24 for the Panthers, and Sheldon Jeter scored nine points in the fifth-consecutive game he’s started, as the Panthers (19-10, 8-7 ACC) beat last-place Boston College (9-18, 1-14 ACC) 71-65 before 9,142 fans.
“These programs, they win with culture,” Boston College coach Jim Christian said of Pitt after the game when asked the degree with which Pitt has improved this season.
“After [Pitt’s loss] against Virginia Tech, when they’ve won as much as they’ve won, and these guys have gone through here and they’ve been taught by the guys before them and the guys before them that that’s not acceptable, and if you want to compete for the NCAA Tournament, then you’ve got to turn it around. That’s what they do,” Christian said.
“I don’t know if they’ve gotten individually better, but the culture wins. That’s what we’re trying to develop,” he added as Olivier Hanlan, who sat beside Christian after scoring 39 points in the game, nodded in agreement. “[Pitt is] not offensively executing anything better, they’re making a couple more shots, but I just think there’s a greater sense of urgency because of the culture.”
After getting out to an early 15-point lead, Pitt was victimized by a 17-2 run by Boston College to close out the first half and to open the second half, but the Panthers’ “sense of urgency” hit full throttle. They re-grouped on offense, got better looks at the basket and held the Eagles to 43 percent shooting in the second half while converting many of the Eagles’ 14 turnovers into 20 points on the offensive end.
Michael Young dominated Boston College’s 7-foot-1 center Dennis Clifford. Young scored 22 points and pulled in nine rebounds. Cameron Wright, who is battling an ankle injury, added 10 points for the Panthers, and Aron Phillips-Nwankwo appeared for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury several weeks back. Phillips-Nwankwo was rendered scoreless in five minutes of play.
Hanlan’s 39 points were the second-most by a player in the Petersen Events Center’s history. His 14 free throws were a building record.
Now, the Panthers, who are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, travel to Winston-Salem, NC., to take on Wake Forest Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
Pitt is 37th in ESPN’s RPI poll; 76th in statistician Ken Pomeroy’s poll; and 77th in ESPN’s BPI poll. Prior to the Boston College game, the Panthers were listed among Joe Lunardi’s first eight teams excluded from the NCAA Tournament.
But, said Young, Pitt will succeed if it takes a “one-game-at-a-time” approach.
“We want to make it, but we’ve got to win games to make it, and we’re just worried about the next game.”
After Wake Forest, Pitt hosts Miami March 4, and travels to Florida State March 7.