Artis and Young score 30 each, Pitt escapes Marshall 112-106
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Seemingly comfortably ahead against a team that its own coach likened to playing in mud or perhaps dazed from spending too much time playing video games, Pittsburgh let off the gas.
Marshall and it’s relentless pace almost made the Panthers pay for it.
Jamel Artis and Michael Young scored 30 points each and Pitt needed pretty much every one of them to hold off Marshall 112-106 on Wednesday. Sheldon Jeter added 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Panthers (11-2), who let the Thundering Herd (7-6) get as close as five in the final minute after leading by as much as 29 in the second half.
Pitt’s point total matched the program’s highest output since scoring 112 against Youngstown State on Nov. 27, 1993. The problem was the number on the other side of the scoreboard.
“We’re capable of getting big leads and we’re capable of losing them,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said. “We don’t tend to lose them and lose games, but we let them creep in and make the coach nervous.”
Jeter admitted the Panthers thought the competitive part game was over when a jumper by Jonathan Mulligan put Pitt up 78-49 with 14:35 to go. That’s probably more than enough against most teams. Not against Marshall. The Thundering Herd push and push and push regardless of the circumstances. Marshall scored 68 points in the second half and drew within 109-104 with 29 seconds to go before free throws by Young and Artis sealed it.
C.J. Burks led the Thundering Herd with 25 points. Stevie Browning and Ryan Taylor finished with 22 each but the Thundering Herd fell to 0-6 on the road. Marshall has lost 28-straight road games against a non-conference opponents, dating to a 73-69 overtime win over Cincinnati on Nov. 25, 2011.
“It’s just a matter of mental focus,” coach Dan D’Antoni. “We got to get better. We won all our games at home. Some time we’ve got to pack those games in a suitcase.”
Marshall took No. 24 Cincinnati to overtime on Saturday before falling 93-91, a game D’Antoni felt his team booted “three times.” It didn’t appear the Thundering Herd would even get the chance against Pitt. The Panthers opened up a 58-38 lead at the break even without guard Chris Jones, sidelined by a right foot injury. Freshman Justice Kithcart played well in Jones’ absence, finishing with six points and a team-high eight assists.
Stallings briefly took some of the starters out with things seemingly well in hand only to send them back out there almost immediately as Marshall refused to relent.
READY FOR REAL?
Pitt won its final five nonconference games with varying degrees of ease. The going will get significantly tougher on Saturday when Notre Dame visits in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener. The Panthers insist they’re prepared even after getting caught flat-footed late by the Thundering Herd.
“I think we’re ready, I do,” Jeter said. “Mike and Mel been playing good. Cam’s been knocking it down. Defensively we leave a little bit to be desired. We’ll get it there.”
If the Panthers want to be competitive in arguably the nation’s toughest conference, they don’t really have a choice.
“If we don’t stay locked in for 40 minutes from now on, then we all know what awaits us,” Stallings said. “And (the players) know too.”
Marshall: The Thundering Herd can score. Defending? Maybe not so much. Their senior-laden roster has plenty of talent when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. A little better execution - and effort on the glass - at the other end of the floor could take them a long way in Conference USA.
“All we’ve got to do is understand playing good is one part of the game,” D’Antoni said. “The other part is winning good. We don’t have that swagger yet.”
Pitt: Stallings may have the energy guy he needs in junior center Rozelle Nix. The 6-foot-11, 300-pounder provided a boost whenever he was on the court against Marshall, working relentlessly to set screens for his teammates on offense and taking advantage of his massive size in the lane. Nix finished with four points, five rebounds and three fouls in just five minutes.
Stallings said Nix’s role in the ACC will depend on the opponent.
Marshall: Opens Conference USA play on the road at Florida International Saturday. The Thundering Herd went 12-6 in conference play last season.
Pitt: Hosts No. 24 Notre Dame on Saturday. The Panthers are 1-2 against the Hurricanes since joining the ACC in 2013.