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Pitt's bench gives support to emerging sophomore Artis

| Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, 4:14 p.m.
Pitt's Chris Jones celebrates with Sheldon Jeter after Jeter's dunk against Syracuse in the second half Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Pitt's Chris Jones celebrates with Sheldon Jeter after Jeter's dunk against Syracuse in the second half Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, at Petersen Events Center.

On a day that starting forward Jamel Artis was named ACC Player of the Week for the first time, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon spoke about beefing up his bench.

After receiving minimal offensive production from his reserves in victories over Notre Dame and Bryant, Dixon was rewarded with two big-time performances in Saturday's 83-77 victory over Syracuse.

Artis was the star. He recorded his first career double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds. But it was the contributions from sophomore transfer Sheldon Jeter, a forgotten member in the rotation, and fellow sophomore Chris Jones — the pair combined for 33 points — that complemented the play of the starters. Pitt placed five scorers in double figures for the first time this season.

Artis had 52 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and six steals in his past two games to win the ACC weekly award.

Dixon promised to continue using his bench when the Panthers (16-8, 5-5 ACC) visit No. 9 Louisville (19-4, 7-3) on Wednesday.

“Chris coming off the bench and Sheldon giving us something is something we really need, especially in the scoring department,” Dixon said.

Jeter, who averages 3.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 10.9 minutes, had totaled nine points in 30 minutes in his five previous games.

Against Syracuse, Jeter — whose playing time increased when senior guard Cameron Wright was sidelined early with a sprained left ankle — not only played 23 minutes (his highest total since playing a season-high 30 minutes at Boston College on Jan. 6), he scored 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting and grabbed a game-high five offensive rebounds.

Prior to the Boston College game, Jeter had also made limited contributions because of sporadic playing time.

“I (found) myself looking over at the bench if I made a mistake,” Jeter said. “Makes you play (more tense). To actually get in a game for more than four or five possessions (at a time) and get in a rhythm, I was able to get comfortable.”

Jeter was asked what he needs to do to stay on the court.

“Defend and talk more, I guess,” he said with a shrug.

Jeter's playing time likely will continue if Wright is slow to recover from his injury. Wright didn't practice Monday and is considered day-to-day.

Jeter and Jones have the potential to provide much-needed bench scoring.

Jones shot 6 for 9 and scored 15 points in 30 minutes against Syracuse in his third game as a reserve behind sophomore Josh Newkirk. It was Jones' highest point total and most minutes played in a game since he scored 15 points in 36 minutes in a 73-64 victory over Florida State on Jan. 14.

“Trying to put guys in spots they're more comfortable and effective at,” Dixon said. “We've been trying to play Sheldon more and get him around the basket where he's more effective — offensive rebounding, putbacks, finishing, and mid-range. He's a big factor for us, because we've got to get more out of our bench.”

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jharris_trib.

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