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Pitt holds off Buffalo 84-79

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Six Panthers scored in double digits, led by Cameron Johnson and Michael Young with 17, to lead Pitt over Buffalo 84-79 despite a late scare from the Bulls Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center.

The Panthers, who held as much as a 26-point lead, narrowly escaped the clutches of yet another upset loss, knocking off Buffalo (4-5) 84-79 at Petersen Events Center Wednesday night.

Following its upset loss to Duquesne last Friday, the Panthers (7-2) shot a solid 30 of 55 (54.5%) from the field, gaining 17 points each from Michael Young and Cam Johnson.  It was a Johnson 3-pointer that ignited a 9-2 run, which got Pitt away from what was only a one-point advantage with just over six minutes left in the game.

Buffalo used a 16-2 run to close the first half, bringing the deficit down to just 12 points.

“I thought for about 15 minutes to start the game we seemed to be having trouble closing the half,” said coach Kevin Stallings. “I thought we made some nice plays. I really liked our balance, and I like that when Mike got into foul trouble early, the other guys stepped up.  It’s nice on a night where neither Mike or Jamel (Artis) had their best game but had four other guys step up and score in double figures.”

Artis, who was fresh off of a one-game suspension vs. Duquesne, came back with 16 points on 7 of 14 from the field in 34 minutes, despite being the last of the starters to enter the double-figures mark.

In total the Panthers had six players in double-figures including 12 from Chris Jones and 11 from forward Sheldon Jeter, who went 5 of 7 from the field with four rebounds and three assists.

“We got off to a much better start but we just took our foot off the gas and let them back into it,” said Jeter.  “We got a little bit complacent and offensively we got stagnant.  Defensively we stopped having the same intensity and that hurt us.”

The Bulls’ Nick Perkins throttled up his own engine in the second half, as the forward posted a game-high 23 points (14 in the 2nd half), ripping down 8 rebounds and having his way with the Panthers’ bigs.

“Initially they were double teaming the post, but towards the second half it was more one-on-one and I was just taking my time and finishing with what they gave me,” Perkins said.

As a team. Buffalo went 30 of 61 (49.2%) from the field, getting big numbers from Blake Hamilton, who finished with 18 points and forward CJ Massinburg who netted 14 points.

“When you get yourself into a 26-pont deficit it is hard to come back and win,” said Buffalo coach Nate Oats.  “Even with Artis in there, I thought this was a winnable game.  I thought we showed some incredible heart coming back, and we were right there, but you can’t get down that much to start.”

Oats felt that Pitt was indeed a beatable team.

“I still don’t think they’re great defensively, but I guess they were good enough to beat us tonight,” he said.  “They have too many scorers, and use a lot of switches.  It just took us way too long to get comfortable with all of that switching.  Like I said, when you get down as much as we did it’s really hard to come back.”

The Panthers were outscored 48-32 in the paint, barely escaping with a 32-30 rebounding advantage, despite being outclassed on the offensive glass.

“It’s my job to get it to where I wish I didn’t have to come in here and say this as much as I have this season,” said Stallings about addressing the lack of intensity for a full 40 minutes.  “We show in stretches where we’re capable of being dominant, but I have to find out why it’s not all the way there yet.  I wouldn’t want to say that it should be there, as if I was pointing the finger at somebody who coached here before me.”

Artis Returns
Artis started slow, scoring just 5 points on 2 of 4 shooting in the 1st half.  Artis was the very last starter to get into the double-digit scoring column midway through the 2nd half.

Artis talked about missing out on the Duquesne game.

“It was difficult to watch the game, but it was a tough lesson and I learned from it.  I’m pretty valuable to this team, a pretty important guy.  There were guys that should have stepped up on this team that didn’t step up, but it happens.”

After the Spread
Pitt came in a 12.5 point favorite covering that spread.  They are now 3-4-1 against the spread this season. 

The total, which came in at 148 was well covered with a total of 163 points scored.  Pitt has now gone over for the first time in four games.

Next Up
The Panthers will travel to face Penn State in a neutral game in Newark, NJ for the Never Forget Tribute Classic.  The game will be played Sat, Dec. 10 at Prudential Center and will tipoff at 2:30 PM.


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