Pitt’s Senior Day had the whole agenda: Honor Seniors Mike Young, Jamel Artis, Sheldon Jeter and Chris Jones in front of a full house at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers decided to wear their retro uniforms at home for their second straight week, and all they wanted or needed was a victory vs. 8th ranked North Carolina to cap the day.
Well, as the Rolling Stones once sang “You can’t always get what you want.” and yes, I know about the second part of that chorus, but the Panthers surely didn’t try and ‘get what they need’ as they fell hard to the Tar Heels 85-67. And in my opinion, this loss will end any hope or speculation on their chances for the NCAA Tournament, unless they win the ACC Tournament and get the automatic bid, which as I stated many times before, would take a USA over USSR Olympic Hockey miracle.
Seriously, even though the Panthers Rating Percentage Index (RPI) still gives them at least a conversation as a possible bubble-team but folks, it’s about common sense. If the Panthers with a 4-12 Atlantic Coast Conference record (15-14 overall) gets to the Big Dance over several small conference Division 1 teams who have a much-better record than Pitt, then that would truly be a crime because, to be honest, Pitt doesn’t deserve to get their ticket punched for that tournament.
And don’t think the Panthers are a shoo-in for the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) either, but I will put a dollar on the table nearest me and bet you that they will still get a home game for that tournament. Because they thrive on any star power that’s left out of the NCAA Tournament. And that’s the truth, Ruth.
As for the game itself, it was no different than any of the blow-outs that Pitt suffered this year. Not only was the opposing team much better on the court, but the Panthers weren’t at their best. This wasn’t the team that beat nationally-ranked Virginia, Syracuse, Florida State, and even the team that lost to North Carolina when they played at Chapel Hill January 31st in which that they gave the Tar Heels a scare in an 80-78 loss.
No, this Panthers team was more like the ones who lost to Duke, Miami, Clemson and Louisville, the team that looked totally out of it when they needed to focus and fell flat on their faces vs. the 2016 NCAA National Championship Runner-Up. This was a game that would’ve kept the Tournament Committee curious about Pitt, but not anymore. (again, in my opinion)
But to be fair, the Panthers did keep the Tar Heels closed early in the first half and looked very much like the team that almost pulled off the upset in Chapel Hill. They took an early 9-8 lead thanks to a 3-pointer from G Cameron Johnson and eventually had a 17-11lead when Artis also hit a 3. At that point, the team was operating on all cylinders, and it had the makings of a Pitt victory.
But unfortunately, that momentum didn’t last long as the Tar Heels reminded everyone why they’re the 8th ranked team in the county as they stormed back and eventually took a 19-17 lead when G Joel Berry hit a timely 3-pointer. And even though the Panthers would tie the game at 19, the Tar Heels never trailed again as they eventually went on a run that had them leading 28-25 with over 4 minutes left in the first half. The Panthers tried to hang with the Tar Heels then snatched the carpet from below them and went on a 12-3 run to close out the first half with a 40-28 lead.
If you thought Pitt would get it together in the second half, then you can put those hopes up there with their NCAA Tournament chances. The Panthers heart went south as they could only get as close as 42-34 when Johnson was able to steal the ball and score on back-to-back dunks but it was pretty much over for them as the Tar Heels ran away from them the rest of the half. They led 81-61 when the some of the home crowd started heading out of the arena. Pitt HC Kevin Stallings eventually took his Seniors out of the game (Jeter removed himself courtesy of a foul-out) and Carolina finally sealed the 85-67 win to improve to 25-5, and 13-3 in the ACC.
Young and Artis had ‘OK’ games as they both lead Pitt with 17 points, apiece. Young also tied for the team lead with eight rebounds with Big Man Rozelle Nix, who looked very impressive in the paint as he also had 3 points. Jones rebounded from his struggles vs. Wake Forest and added 10 points, and Johnson had 9. Jeter had 7 points before his foul-out.
For the Tar Heels, F Justin Jackson led all scorers with 23 points, and fellow forward Kennedy Meeks led with ten rebounds. I honestly think this team can contend for another National Championship this season as well.
“It’s disappointing.” Said Stallings. “I wish we had a better result for our seniors today.” I totally agree. It would’ve been a great send-off, but unfortunately, when a team struggles like Pitt did today, that’s not going to happen.
Pitt now has two road games left as they face Georgia Tech February 28th and then close out their regular season vs. Virginia March 4th.
Artis had this to say about Pitt’s renaming games: “Finish out strong. We still have a lot of confidence in ourselves; we need to play hard still.” Hopefully, that confidence will translate into wins for the Panthers.
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Urban Media Today Salute 2017 Seniors