For Pitt's seniors, UNC game is their day

PITT GAMEDAY North Carolina 12 p.m.Petersen Events Center Line: North Carolina by 8TV/radio: WTAE-TV/KDKA-FMBreakdown: North Carolina will play its first game outside of its state since Jan. 28. … The Tar Heels are 4-1 in February, with victories against...

For Pitt's seniors, UNC game is their day

PITT GAMEDAY

North Carolina

12 p.m.

Petersen Events Center

Line: North Carolina by 8

TV/radio: WTAE-TV/KDKA-FM

Breakdown: North Carolina will play its first game outside of its state since Jan. 28. … The Tar Heels are 4-1 in February, with victories against No. 7 Louisville, No. 18 Virginia and No. 21 Notre Dame and a loss to No. 10 Duke.

NO. 8 NORTH CAROLINA (24-5, 12-3)

F Kennedy Meeks 6-10 Sr. 12.7

F Isaiah Hicks 6-9 Sr. 12.1

F Justin Jackson 6-8 Jr. 18.7

F Theo Pinson 6-6 Jr. 7.7

G Joel Berry II 6-0 Jr. 14.6

PITT (15-13, 4-11)

F Michael Young 6-9 Sr. 20.4

F Sheldon Jeter 6-8 Sr. 8.4

G Jamel Artis 6-7 Sr. 19.3

G Chris Jones 6-6 Sr. 7.1

G Cam Johnson 6-8 Soph. 12.0

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Updated less than a minute ago

While walking past Petersen Events Center last week, senior forward Sheldon Jeter caught himself staring at a poster on the wall.

A list of every Pitt home game looked back at him, unforgivingly. The last game on that list takes place at noon Saturday against No. 8 North Carolina (24-5, 12-3).

“The day's almost here. The day's almost here,” said Jeter, recalling what he said at the time and sounding like he didn't want that day to arrive. “(Saturday), when I walk past it, the day's here. There will be no more games in front of the Oakland Zoo, no more games in front of all my family. It's a weird feeling.”

And, perhaps, a bit empty.

Jeter and classmates Jamel Artis, Michael Young and Chris Jones will play their final regular-season home game as they approach the end of a bitterly disappointing season.

Pitt (15-13, 4-11 ACC) has exhausted almost all hope of reaching the NCAA Tournament after losing to Virginia Tech and Wake Forest in a span of eight days. Those were games the Panthers led by as many as 13 and 19 points.

Is there enough fight left in the players, specifically the five starters who have averaged nearly 32.5 minutes of each game?

Fair question, considering Pitt led Wake Forest, 36-17, late in the first half, made only one field goal over the final 15:49 and trailed for just 48 seconds of a 63-59 loss. Pitt is 1-6 in ACC games decided by five points or fewer.

“The sting of the Wake Forest game might have been the worst sting we had all year,” Jeter said.

Still, he said there's time to salvage something.

“These next three games,” he said, allowing himself to look ahead to games next week at Georgia Tech and Virginia. “The type of resiliency we show is a mark of what our legacy is going to be.”

“What are we going to do now?” Artis said. “Crumble or keep fighting?”

While speaking to reporters, the seniors were asked how they wish to be remembered.

Jeter said, “No matter what, he just fought. He played as hard as he could. He gave his heart to this place because that's what I did.”

Young's hopes are similar: “I just want to be remembered as a guy who got better every year, worked (hard), was a really good teammate and, everytime he came on the court, he gave his all.”

Young said recovering from another devastating defeat won't be difficult.

“If you love the game as much as I love it, it's easy to bounce back,” he said. “Any opportunity you get to bounce the basketball, you're going to seize. If you have a good game and you still lose or a close game and you lose, that's what you play the game for.”

Coach Kevin Stallings said he expects his team to be motivated by senior day festivities and a chance to defeat another ranked team. Pitt has three such victories this season.

“I hope there's never a point where they say enough's enough,” he said. “I hope that losing basketball games isn't enough to stop any of us.”

Note: Stallings said Ryan Luther, who has missed the past 11 games, participated in live practice drills this week for the first time since breaking a bone in his foot. “The report afterwards wasn't great. There was some soreness,” Stallings said. “I don't know that we'll have him (Saturday).”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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