COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The Panthers made their first road trip of the 2016-16 season on Tuesday and came away with an impressive 73-59 win over the Maryland Terrapins in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Maryland native Jamel Artis was the Panthers’ second leading scorer and all-around best player. On a night when the Terrapins tried to make things as difficult as possible for Michael Young inside, Artis took advantage by putting up 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Artis, who grew up about 45 minutes away from the Xfinity Center, had about 18 family members in attendance and was engaged from the get-go on both sides of the ball.
“It’s always good to play in front of a crowd that you know,” he said, while noting that while he played in that building in high school, he was never recruited by Maryland. “I played with a chip on my shoulder for that.”
Maybe for the first time this season, and certainly for the first time against elite competition, Artis looked like a for-real point guard. He made passes, directed the offense, was a defensive pest, managed the press and did pretty much everything Kevin Stallings could have possibly hoped for him to do when he moved him to point guard this offseason. Artis said he’s having fun.
“Yeah, they ask a lot of me,” he said. “I’m primarily the ball-hander. I have to get guys open and also score the basketball. I like the competition. I take it as a challenge.”
Stallings is hesitant to take credit for Artis’ success.
“Jamel would be having big games offensively if he was playing the center spot for us,” Stallings said. “He’s just a good offensive player. I’m going to take any credit for the magnitude of the way he’s playing because I think he would be playing the same way if he was playing on the wing. The fact of the matter is that he’s just a very versatile player and we play a little point guard-by-committee, but Jamel is more than capable of handling the ball and handling the point for us. He’s doing a great job of it.”
IN THE ZONE
After starting off just so-so in their man-to-man defense, Pitt changed to a 3-2 zone and really gave Maryland a lot of trouble. The Panthers used the zone to create a 16-3 run in the first half that created all the separation the Panthers would need for the rest of the game.
“If we didn’t come in here and play defense, they probably would have done the same to us,” Artis said. “We came out, we hit them hard first. … Our offense was kicking.”
The primary benefit of the zone for the Panthers was shutting down the penetration of two-time All-Big Ten guard Melo Trimble.
“We knew was their guy. He makes everything run. He makes their team go,” Young said. “If they were going to win, he needed to play well, and we knew that. … The game plan was to try to take as much away from him as possible. We were just trying to make it as tough for him as possible.”
That certainly worked, as Trimble scored just 13 — way off his average of 21 — and was able to get to the free-throw line just four times, something that he excels at. He credited the Panthers’ zone for making things difficult for him.
“They play a 3-2 zone really well,” Trimble said. “They practice it, as you can tell. They were really effective in it. We just couldn’t make any shots but their zone was really good tonight.”
YOUNG HAVING FUN
With the second ticking off the clock, Young had some fun with the raucous road crowd, answering a Michal Cekovsky dunk in garbage time with a two-handed flush of his own and a message for the Maryland faithful.
Young said he was just having some fun and enjoying the moment.
“I was just having fun and interacting with fans,” he said. “It’s a true road game, I’m a senior, this is my last year, this will be my last time playing here and we won. I just wanted to have fun with it.”
MISSING IN ACTION
Sheldon Jeter continues to struggle to find a place in Pitt’s offense. He was 1 for 3 with six points and has gone five straight games without cracking double digits.
It hasn’t been a huge issue for Pitt’s offense to this point, but the Panthers did struggle in the second half during the times Young was on the bench. He isn’t going to be able to play 40 minutes a night, especially when ACC play rolls around and defending more talented big men will require some fouls.
The Panthers would do well to find a way to get Jeter more involved.