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Artis 3-pointer lifts Pitt to win at Florida State

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Jamel Artis hit a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left to lift Pitt to a 74-72 road win over Florida State in Tallahassee on Saturday.

The phrase “must-win game” is often overused and over-exaggerated, reaching cliché status in the sports universe. Unless it is an elimination game, it isn’t fair to label it as such.

But after losing two out of its last three contests—the latter being at home to an unranked NC State team—it would be safe to call Pitt’s road contest against the Florida State Seminoles (12-7, 2-5) as close to a “must-win” game as it gets before March rolls around.

The Panthers fell behind early and had to claw their way back from as many as 10 points behind to eventually outlast Florida State, 74-72, inside the Donald L. Tucker Center.

With forward Sheldon Jeter unable to play while going through the team’s concussion protocol, the Panthers’ depth at the low post was tested. Forwards Rafael Maia, Alonzo Nelson-Ododa and Ryan Luther were called upon to play valuable minutes and, at the very least, play smart defensively.

Through one half of play, those backup post players each had racked up two fouls, while not contributing much on the offensive end. So, it was up to Artis, Young and guard James Robinson to carry the team on the road.

The only problem was that the Seminoles’ physical play in the first half did not allow any of them to get into any sort of rhythm. Artis, Robinson and Young combined to go 4-of-18 from the floor in the first half, the entire Pitt team following suit by shooting only 33 percent in that stretch.

The Panthers came out of the locker room ready to battle in the second half, though. Despite getting beaten by FSU in transition, Pitt used punishing, physical play on both ends to get back into the game.

Both Artis and Young got more involved in the offense and drove to the hoop to get baskets at the rim and draw fouls, rather than settling for jump shots. Young finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds in the contest, while Artis scored 16 for Pitt, and adding 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

Robinson added 14 points and 5 assists, including three 3-pointers and 11 points in the second half

And much of that was complemented by outstanding outside shooting from graduate transfer Sterling Smith, who finished with a season-high 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.

Florida State’s leading scorer, freshman Malik Beasley, would not allow the Panthers to take the lead until after he fouled out of the ballgame with five minutes to play. He played the role of facilitator and scorer, going 7-of-7 from the field for 16 points and adding 3 assists.

Pitt still could not break ahead of the Seminoles until Luther gathered his own rebound with just under 40 seconds to play and kicked it out to a wide-open Artis, who buried a 3-pointer to put the Panthers up, 70-67, with 33 seconds remaining.

Two free throws from Smith put a cap on the road win for Pittsburgh, who now sits at 16-3 (5-2 ACC). The Panthers will continue its road trip Jan. 27 when they take on Clemson in a 7 PM match-up.

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