Pitt, Stallings earn signature win by beating No. 11 Virginia
In the huddle before overtime, Jamel Artis decided it was time to seize control and not let this game get away. His method of achieving that?
“Hit them in the mouth,” Artis said.
The result was an 88-76 Pitt victory against No. 11 Virginia on Wednesday at Petersen Events Center.
The Panthers (12-3, 1-1) scored an almost-impossible-to-believe 40 points over Virginia's nation-leading average of 48.6 points allowed. The previous high any team had scored against Virginia this season was 66 in a loss to West Virginia.
It was Pitt's first victory this season against a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
Even without overtime, Pitt scored 70, but the problem was Virginia's London Perrantes hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left in regulation to force the extra session.
Pitt scored 18 in the five-minute overtime session, however, opening a 79-70 lead on two 3-pointers by Sheldon Jeter and one by Artis, who led the Panthers with 24 points.
“They got what they wanted and that was disappointing,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
Stallings was beaming after trying without much success earlier this season to get Pitt to play a complete game.
“I can't say how proud I am of my guys, how hard they played and how hard they had to play,” he said after winning his first ACC game as Pitt's coach.
“This one has extra meaning because I found out (Tuesday) night these seniors have never beaten Virginia in their careers. It was not my win. It was their win.”
Pitt lost an overtime game to Notre Dame on Saturday, with the Irish's Steve Vasturia hitting a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left. Pitt was determined not to let that happen again.
“It felt sort of desperate,” Stallings said of the need to win at least one of the first two ACC games. “You don't want to start 0-2 in this league at home. That couldn't be a very good look.”
Stallings was especially proud of Jeter, who he coached at Vanderbilt.
“I believe in that kid,” he said. “I believe in his heart. I believe in his character. I'm really happy for him. His rebounding, forget his shot-making, has made a big difference in the last three games.”
Michael Young scored 19, but he and Artis were supported by Jeter and Cam Johnson, both of whom recorded 16 points and eight rebounds.
Throughout the game, Pitt threw a mixture of mostly effective offense at Virginia (11-3, 1-2).
Driving to the hoop for much of the early portions of the game and later hitting four 3-pointers in a six-minute stretch of the second half, Pitt held its biggest lead, 53-46, with 11:30 left in the game.
But it never could completely shake Virginia, and the Cavaliers immediately started hacking at that deficit before taking a 56-55 lead on a driving layup by Marial Shayak at 6:54.
Pitt regained the lead, 63-61, on a 3-pointer by Artis with 4:39 left. Then, it ran down the shot clock to almost zero — Virginia-style — and scored on a dunk by Ryan Luther for a four-point lead.
Luther took control at that point, tipping in a missed shot and then blocking one by Virginia's Mamadi Diakite. Luther was subbing for Jeter, who said he was cramping up at that point of the game.
Artis scored 18 of his 24 points from beyond the 3-point arc (going 6 of 7) and sinking five crucial foul shots in overtime. Johnson hit 4 of 5 3-pointers for the game and also added four overtime foul shots on four attempts.
Virginia entered the game with the nation's second-best field-goal percentage defense (35.2), but Pitt shot 50 percent to take a 35-32 lead at halftime. For the game, Pitt shot 53.7 percent.
The lead easily could have been more comfortable, but Pitt missed 5 of 9 free throws and committed seven turnovers to Virginia's three. Pitt's first-half leads also were never more than seven points.
Continuing a trend that doesn't look to be ending soon, Pitt's five starters played at least 30 minutes.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.