The fine college careers of Pittsburgh’s Jamel Artis and Michael Young are likely ending with a whimper. There were far more wins than losses and a pair of trips to the NCAA Tournament, but there was a coaching change last March and this disappointing season. Still no senior wants it to end and that’s what everyone saw from the pair in the final minutes of their ACC first-round matchup with Georgia Tech on Tuesday night.
They made most of the big plays down the stretch as the 14th-seeded Panthers eked out a 61-59 win before 8,656 at Barclays Center. Over the final 4:03, they combined to score 11 of Pitt’s final 13 points and Artis beautifully executed coach Kevin Stallings’ plan to foul the Yellowjackets as they looked for a tying three-pointer with only a couple of ticks left in the game.
Artis’ foul put Josh Okogie on the line with 2.2 seconds to play. He made the front end of the one-and-one and, where coach Josh Pastner said he was trying to miss intentionally, he sank the second, also. Still down 60-59, Tech fouled and Artis made one of two free throws with 1.4 seconds left. All Tech could try was a long pass for a shot and it was deflected.
“This is it for us,” said Young, who had 17 points. “This is our last go-around. Every game is our last game. If we lose, we go home. We just got to fight. You got to have that desire to play every possession like it’s the last play of the game.”
Sheldon Jeter had 14 points and Artis 11 points and nine rebounds for Pitt. Tadric Jackson’s 17 points led Tech.
Pitt (16-16) has to win five games in five nights to reach the NCAAs and gets 21st-ranked Virginia in Wednesday’s 9 p.m. second-round game.
But the loss was devastating for Georgia Tech (17-15) which had a chance to be in the conversation with a couple of wins after regular-season victories over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame.
Down by a point, Young made a three-pointer with 4:03 to play for a 51-49 Panthers lead. Jackson tied it on a drive, before Artis put Pitt up for good with a three-pointer with 3:18 left.
“I thought we were a more together basketball team tonight than we had been in a while, put it that way,” Stallings said. “And I thought that togetherness carried us through to the win. Seniors feel urgency. I think the tournament represented sort of a different beginning, a different start.”