After watching a 20-point lead at the end of the first half dissipate to a five-point advantage with 1:51 to play, Pittsburgh coach Kevin Stallings’ analysis was a mixed bag.
On one hand, he was impressed by his team’s showing in a first half in which his Panthers played efficiently on both ends of the floor. On the flip side, defensive breakdowns and lackluster rebounding held the door open long enough for Penn State to make it a ballgame.
But Sheldon Jeter’s corner three with 1:28 remaining halted Penn State’s late comeback in an 81-73 win for Pitt (8-2) at Prudential Center on Saturday in the second game of the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic, and Stallings was pleased to leave with a win.
“We’re a team that’s doing a really good job for portions of the game and halves of the game and sometimes, maybe like today, such a good job that we’re almost able to put a game out of reach,” Stallings said. “We’re still trying to find consistency and the kind of play that we need throughout a 40-minute game.”
Michael Young had 29 points and nine rebounds for Pitt, and Jamel Artis chipped in 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
It was nearly a complete showing from Pitt in the first half. The Panthers shot 6-for-14 from three and outrebounded the Nittany Lions 26-13. All-around team defense forced Penn State to shoot 7-for-27 from the field. And it all added up to a 42-22 lead at the break.
The second half was a far different story. Penn State outrebounded Pitt 28-16, and pushed the tempo to score 51 points in the half.
Penn State’s late surge started when Shep Garner hit a three with 2:48 to play. Tony Carr then skied for a putback layup on the next possession, cutting Pitt’s advantage to 71-65.
Garner then split a pair of free throws before Jeter’s three ended the run in the last game of what was a successful fundraiser.
Said Stallings: “We at Pitt feel very privileged to have been part of the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic and hope that it continues to sell out and attract great teams and benefit the families and the victims of 9/11.”