Wondering where this Pitt team has been? Join the crowd.
Things got a little hairy at the end as Syracuse closed the gap, but the Panthers continued their mini-resurgence with an 80-75 win against Syracuse on Saturday. And while it's only the team's second victory in a row, it marks the fourth consecutive strong effort we've seen when you count the road losses to North Carolina and Duke where they hung with both teams.
Jamel Artis' ankle, which was a concern coming in, seems fine. I thought he was moving around a little timidly on defense at the start of the game but he looked back to his former self a little later. On the day, he finished with 16 points and ten assists. That assist number is a season-high and quite possibly a career-high. Michael Young added 21 points and Sheldon Jeter had 11 rebounds.
But it was Cam Johnson, who led the team in scoring with 22 points while knocking down 6-8 three-pointers. Cam had a couple of rough games in his past two contests. He rebounded fairly well in those games and also played some good defense with five steals, but he had a total of only ten points on 3-12 shooting. Seeing him play so well on the offensive end was a great thing to watch.
Also noteworthy in this game was that Michael Young played his first game in a while without the face guard he'd been wearing.
Personally, I enjoyed a couple of things in particular about today's game. First, there was the effort on defense. Pitt was hustling around out there, going for loose balls, and not conceding much of anything. There were a few lapses, but they were solid at both ends of the court today. They gave up 75 points so it's not as if they pitched a shutout or anything, but if you watched the game, you could see the defensive intensity was there.
And speaking of hustle, what Pitt did to Syracuse on the boards was criminal. The Panthers outrebounded Syracuse, 41-25, and that was as big a reason as any why they were able to win.
On offense, Pitt also adeptly handled a Syracuse trap for much of the second half. Even when the program has had good point guards, they've struggled with breaking presses at times. There weren't any such issues today as Pitt was mostly pretty good at not only getting the ball past midcourt, but getting fast break points, too.
It's not as if Pitt played a perfect game, too. That made the win even more impressive. The Panthers had 17 turnovers on the day and need to clean some of that up. But that was about the only thing they did wrong today.
Where Pitt goes from here isn't exactly clear. If we're being honest here, Pitt isn't exactly playing themselves back into NCAA Tournament contention right now. But if they've proven anything, it's that they're not simply going to roll over and die just yet.
Next up is a Valentine's Day date with Virginia Tech at home. If the Panthers can pull off a win there, suddenly that next game against No. 14 Florida State after it looks a lot more interesting.
With a couple of wins, where are you at with the season? Let me know in the poll below.