College basketball: Pitt coach rewarded for faith in Sheldon Jeter

PITTSBURGH — As coach Kevin Stallings sat down after Pitt’s basketball game Wednesday against Virginia and examined the stat sheet, there were a lot of numbers that surprised him.

Eighty-eight points against a defense that had allowed just 48.6 points per game, that was surprising. That those 88 points eclipsed Virginia’s total for the game, 76, that was surprising, given that the Cavaliers shot 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point territory.

But there were two numbers that didn’t surprise Stallings: three and five. The first of those numbers being how many 3-pointers Sheldon Jeter made, and the second being how many he attempted.

Pittsburgh Panthers forward Sheldon Jeter (21) was right in the middle of the upset win with 16 points.

Charles LeClaire | USA TODAY Sports Images

Pittsburgh Panthers forward Sheldon Jeter (21) was right in the middle of the upset win with 16 points.

Of the 88 points Pitt scored, there were none more crucial than the six Pitt got from the two 3-pointers from Jeter to begin overtime, after London Perrantes sent the game into an extra period via a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left in the second half. Another 3-pointer, by Jamel Artis, allowed Pitt to pull ahead 79-70 early in overtime, which proved to be enough to give the Panthers the win, as Pitt knocked off 11th-ranked Virginia 88-76 on Wednesday at the Petersen Events Center.

Given Jeter’s struggles from behind the arc — the senior forward had hit just 32 percent of his 3-pointers going into the game — it wouldn’t be surprising if Stallings was wary of Jeter taking those shots. But Stallings has unyielding confidence in him.

“I’m not about to stop believing in him. He could miss 18 in a row and if he’s open, let me see number 19,” Stallings said. “I believe in that kid.”

In a game where Pitt needed every point it could get against a stingy Virginia defense, the Panthers’ secondary scorers came up big. Jeter and Cameron Johnson both scored 16 points, while Ryan Luther had eight. Naturally, opponents are predisposed to focus on Jamel Artis and Michael Young, who have carried much of the offensive load this season. With that focus often bringing double teams, that opened things up for other Panthers.

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“Guys key on us and we got shooters who can make big plays,” Artis said. “When they key on us we can kick it out.”

Having shooters against Virginia’s throttling defense is important, Stallings said, and those shooters came through, as Pitt knocked down 13 of 21 3-pointers.

“When you play Virginia you have to make shots. And we made shots,” Stallings said. “We made perimeter shots. We made some threes.”

Pitt’s game plan was geared toward that belief, trying to attack and speed up the pace to make Virginia uncomfortable and open up. The Panthers rode that game plan to 53.7 percent from the field and scored 22 more points than the previous high total Virginia had allowed — 66 to West Virginia.

A trio of trifectas gave Pitt a lead in overtime that they would not relinquish to the Cavaliers.

Charles LeClaire | USA TODAY Sports Images

A trio of trifectas gave Pitt a lead in overtime that they would not relinquish to the Cavaliers.

“We tried to drive the basketball and make them get crowded a little bit. We just tried to get open and create chaos for them,” Artis said. “We tried to put the pressure on them.”

Beyond those shots, Pitt’s effort on the boards was crucial, as the Panthers out-rebounded Virginia 42-24 in total rebounds and 12-6 on the offensive boards.

“We’re very physical. Half of the battle is just going,” Jeter said. “After that it’s just boxing someone out and getting it.”

Pitt’s shot-making was more than enough for the Panthers to beat Virginia and get its first ACC win. And if Pitt can get similar efforts in the future, it might mean more wins for coach Stallings.

This article is written by Jeremy Tepper from Beaver County Times, Pa. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.