Pitt's basketball team had a lot of questions heading into a difficult matchup with a good Florida State squad. The Panthers still have some issues, but with a 74-72 road win, Pitt took an important first step in getting things back on track.
Coming into the game, Pitt had seemingly everything going against them. They were playing on the road, facing a good team, and looked terrible in their last game against North Carolina State. On top of all that, it was announced shortly before the game that forward Sheldon Jeter would miss the contest as he was placed in Pitt's concussion protocol system.
I said before the game that others would need to step up in his absence - and that's what happened. Getting 29 points from Michael Young and Jamel Artis wasn't a surprise. The key was that Pitt got a lot of production from their backcourt of James Robinson and Sterling Smith. The duo actually outscored the star forwards with 30 points and Smith tied Artis for the team lead in scoring with 16 points.
Looking at the box score, you might not have expected a Pitt win based on a few stats. The Panthers shot only 39% to Florida State's 54% and were also -1 in the rebounding battle. So how did they stay in it? The Seminoles had 16 turnovers and the Panthers got off seven more shots than Florida State. They also made ten three-pointers to Florida State's six and despite the poor shooting, were able to pull out a win.
What I liked the most was how the Panthers closed out the game. Pitt got a three-pointer from Jamel Artis with 33 seconds left and while they had some troubles at the free throw line earlier, made their last four to close things out. The Panthers simply made plays at the end and won a hard-fought game.
I don't think this means everything is fine with the team. They still didn't shoot well and for a while, looked like they weren't going to win this on. But you have to respect the way they fought back from a ten-point deficit. It's part of the reason I've said it's way too early to give up on this team. They haven't looked good lately, but as they've done so many times, just fought, and fought, and fought. There's a lot of basketball left and the talk of things like declaring these guys NIT bound is really premature.
Next up, the Panthers will stay on the road for a game against Clemson.