Jamel Artis received stiff competition from Chris Jones' strong effort against Syracuse yesterday and also from myself for driving 20 miles in a snow/ice/sleet storm out here in the well plowed streets just outside of Philadelphia. He held both off though and brings home yet another Panther of the Week award. If we actually gave him a trophy or something, he would have to start building a new shelf. Unfortunately, he'll have to continue to just print these articles out and hang them in his room. Artis' efforts gave the Panthers a 1-1 week and kept them in contention for a birth into the NCAA Tournament.
The week did not start off well as the Panthers fell to highly ranked Virginia, 61-49, thanks in large part to a second half collapse at around the 12 minute mark of the second half. Artis did his part though and showed that even one of the top defenses in the country can't keep him contained. The sophomore ended the game at UVA with 20 points, eight rebounds, and added in one assist. The Cavaliers have held a lot of talented players down this year and the game this past Monday showed just how far Artis has come this season.
With the loss, the Panthers were teetering on having to win the ACC tournament to gain an NCAA birth and badly needed a win at Syracuse. Chris Jones' long-range game combined with Artis' all-around solid effort, gave Pitt the win. Artis poured in 16 points, six rebounds, and seven assists. The assists the Baltimore, MD native is piling up this season is really eye opening and giving the Panthers something that not a lot of teams have: a 6'7 forward with great passing ability and vision.
If Pitt is to gain an invitation into the Big Dance in March, it will continue to rely on Artis to lead the way. They can't afford too much of a slip in the last four games of the regular season. The good news is that the Panthers are finished with the big boys of the ACC now and their toughest game remaining is at the friendly Oakland Zoo environment. If they can get into the NCAA Tourney, Jamie Dixon may have to get involved in one of these Panther of the Week conversations.