ACC Basketball

Bulldogs Bark, But Panthers Avoid Bite

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America)

On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Panthers earned a resume-building victory over Notre Dame. On Monday, they nearly suffered a resume-destroying loss. With just 2:25 on the clock, the Panthers actually trailed Bryant, the third-place team in the Northeastern Conference, 67-66 after Dyami Starks’ three. Luckily for Jamie Dixon, that’s when his  squad finally put the brakes on the Bulldogs scoring, not allowing another point. Chris Jones would go ahead and hit the go-ahead jumper with 1:12 and Jamel Artis would seal it with a pair of field goals.

It was Artis, who deserves all the credit for the win. He scored a season-high 32 points, hitting 11-17 from the field, including 3-4 from deep. He did most of his damage when the Panthers needed it. Down 41-35 midway through the second half, Artis scored 14 points to turn a six-point deficit into a 52-44 lead.

Yes, Pittsburgh was coming off an emotional win. Yes, the Bulldogs were a scrappy team capable of hitting from deep, but this was a team playing it’s third game in six days. Yet, they still managed to out hustle Pitt for most of the night, forcing eight lead changes and eight ties against an ACC team vying for a NCAA tournament bid.

In the end though, a win is a win and at the end of the season, no one on that committee is going to think twice about a tight non-conference contest in early February. Pittsburgh is now 15-8 and that’s all that matters. Whether they can get into the big dance will be decide in the next two weeks where they face a brutal five-game stretch: at home vs Syracuse, at Louisville, back home against North Carolina and then off to Virginia and then a second go with Syracuse.

Anything short of 3-2 in that stretch will probably mean N.I.T. for Pittsburgh.

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