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Pitt pulls away late to beat Syracuse 72-61

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Sheldon Jeter scored seven straight points during a decisive late run, Jamel Artis had 18 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists, and ‎Pitt‬ dominated the glass as the Panthers beat Syracuse 72-61 Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center.

PITTSBURGH - Things were uneasy with two minutes left in the game.

14-points later, this one was a no doubter.

Utilizing an explosive run in the final two minutes that saw Syracuse score just 2 points, No. 24 Pitt (11-1) raced the Orange (10-4) to a 72-61 finish at Petersen Events Center late Wednesday night.

Artis, who spearheaded the monstrous Panthers run, finished with a game-best 18 points, 8 assists and 9 rebounds.

The highlight reel-worthy performance of Artis over the final two minutes included two assists, two steals and four points. The game-clincher was a steal off of Trevor Cooney, leading to a transition dish to Sheldon Jeter that led to a monster jam and gave Pitt a comfortable 8-point lead with 1:09 left.

“I was just playing basketball,” said Artis.  “I was finding the right people, creating shots and getting open.  When you are able to get open it makes it a lot easier to find your teammates for open looks, and that’s what I took advantage of.”

Like it did last week against Western Carolina’s zone-look, Pitt used the high-post with Artis and Michael Young, which led to the Panthers’ success in the paint, and helped in large part to its monstrous 19-8 advantage on the offensive glass, with 34 points in the paint and 22 second-chance points.

Pitt out-rebounded Syracuse 43-25.

“That’s what helped us beat them last year was rebounding,” said Young who finished with 15 points and 7 rebounds.  “In all of their losses this year they got outrebounded, and we knew that was one of the most important parts of this game, beating them on the boards.”

Young also talked about the success of the high-post offense against the zone.

“When you get the ball in the middle it’s basically one-on-one and a case of finding the open big man down low, or taking it,” explained the junior. “It is something really look to against a zone like that.”

Syracuse, who shot 20 of 46 (43.5%), held a lead throughout the second half up until the 8-minute mark when a 6-2 run was capped by an Artis-to-James Robinson goal-to-goal layup, which gave the Panthers a 50-48 advantage.

“We played great basketball for 35 minutes, but that last five minutes Pitt made some big plays,” said Syracuse interim head coach Mike Hopkins.  “They made big shots and we couldn’t make the plays.  They rattled us a little bit.  They made it hard for us to score and we just couldn’t get it done.”

Cooney and Tyler Roberson led the Orange, scoring 15 points apiece, both helping push Syracuse to its biggest lead (8-points) after a Roberson to Cooney 3-point jumper at 14:28 in the 2nd half that forced a Jamie Dixon timeout.

“Down the stretch we made the free throws and really attacked the zone the way we wanted to in that last five minutes,” said Dixon.  “When you look at it our offense didn’t look that good but we got 19 offensive rebounds.  A big part of our offense is rebounding.  We didn’t shoot great but we took great shots and that’s what led to the offensive rebounds.”

Pitt shot 18 of 23 from the charity stripe, including 7 of 8 in the final two minutes to close out the game.

With three guys in early foul trouble, including James Robinson (8 points, 4 assists)—who had two in the first seven minutes of the game, which limited the guard to 26 minutes of action—the Panthers turned to their bench. Jeter led the reserves, finishing with 11 points and 9 rebounds in 26 minutes, including the monster dunk that iced the game.

“I guess I just like zones or something,” Jeter said.  “I just always find the ball in the right spot and score.  It’s not like I’m really creating my own shot, I have Jamel and James setting me up and I’m just taking the open shot.”

The Panthers had 26 bench-points as a team, adding 10 points from Chris Jones.

Pitt shot 24 of 59 (40.7%) from the field, despite shooting just 6 of 23 from beyond-the-arc.

After the Spread
Pitt (7.5-point favorites) covered tonight’s game, but stayed under the over/under with Syracuse, which was set at 139 points according to LV Westgate.  The Panthers are now 5-5 after the spread this season. 

Next Up
The Panthers will host Maryland Eastern Shore Saturday in the final leg of its non-conference schedule.  Tipoff is slated for 4 PM.

VIDEO LINK: Pitt-Syracuse Highlights

VIDEO LINK: Sheldon Jeter's monster dunk ices Pitt's win over Syracuse

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