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Pitt wins with lackluster second-half effort against Buffalo, 84-79

Pitt played an incredibly strong first half racing out to a 26-point lead at one point in their game against Buffalo. For 20 minutes, it looked like the rout was on. The problem, as it was in the last game, is that basketball games (well, most of them, anyway) consist of two halves. Pitt not only allowed Duquesne back in the game their last time out after building a nice first-half lead, they lost entirely. Tonight against Buffalo they managed a win ... but it wasn't easy.

Buffalo got the lead all the way down to one point and played Pitt closely the rest of the game. The Panthers were able to gut out an 84-79 win.

Pitt's loss to Duquesne was bad. Catastrophic? Nah. The team was without its second-best player, Jamel Artis, who's not only good but could be All-ACC first team good. And facing a rival who always gets up for the game, a loss was disappointing but not entirely inconceivable. Flukes like that happen. A 4-5 Indiana State team beat No. 16 Butler tonight. Those games happen to everyone from time to time.

But to build a massive lead in this game to prove to everyone that things are fine ... and then to lose it all, I mean ...

The problem is that this was against a bad team. At home. Immediately after the Duquesne debacle. This was tailor made for a 25-30 point win. How this game happens right after the Dukes contest is sort of ridiculous. You can find plenty of excuses for that Duquesne game, but I'd love to hear even the most ardent Pitt supporters explain this one away.

I maintain that head coach Kevin Stallings still deserves time to prove himself, recruit, etc. No coach should be run out of town before his team has even begun conference play in his first season. But this type of unacceptable, lackluster play in the second half has to stop. There's absolutely no reason this shouldn't have been a 20-25 point win. Xavier beat them by 33. Creighton won by 21. Even St. Bonaventure beat the Bulls by a bigger margin, winning by six.

It hasn't just been the past two games, either. Pitt got out to a big lead against Maryland before allowing the Terps to cut into it before holding them off at the end. Pitt has had all sorts of problems with the second halves of games.

One of the knocks on Stallings after the hire was announced was his postseason track record. Despite recruiting relatively well and landing some NBA talent, his teams. In 17 years at Vanderbilt, his teams made only two Sweet 16 appearances (and none since 2007). In seeing some of the play from the team (a team not without talent) lately, it's easy to see why some of his teams have underachieved.

One of the bright spots for me was seeing a balanced scoring effort. Michael Young was again key with 17 points and Jamel Artis added 16. But Pitt got 17 from Cameron Johnson, 12 from Chris Jones, and 11 each from Sheldon Jeter and Ryan Luther. Now, nobody else contributed a single point, so there's that. But Pitt did something I mentioned in the last game.

In that Duquesne game, the Panthers got next to nothing from guards Damon Wilson, Justice Kithcart, and Jonathan Milligan. While those guys played some in the first half when the lead was big, I didn't see them much in the second. In theory, Pitt's first six is so much better than its remaining bench that I think they could get away with playing those guys almost exclusively. Sub Luther in when Young needs a rest and give Kithcart minutes when Artis needs spelled at the point. But it's become pretty clear that Pitt's best bet is as a six-man show.

Are those six guys good enough to lead this team far into the postseason? That remains to be seen. But given what they're getting from the other guys, I don't know how you justify continuing to give them minutes.

There's no doubt that Pitt needs to up the intensity for a full 40 minutes. How they started tonight's game was encouraging but it can't just be about coming out hot - the team needs to finish games.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Against the Odds: Pitt opens as a favorite against Buffalo

Pitt tries to bounce back after a stunning upset to Duquesne and Vegas is betting that they do it.

Pitt suffered a significant upset last week in The City Game to Duquesne and will take the court for the first time, trying to bounce back this evening. Pitt stands at 6-2 on the young season, after their setback. They will play host to the Buffalo Bulls, of the MAC Conference. The Bulls are 4-4 so far under second year head coach Nate Oats.

Pitt will look to gain Jamel Artis back from suspension and will have the the familiar setting of The Pete to help them try and bounce back. Vegas has set Pitt as an 11 point favorite over the Bulls, as of this writing. The smart money says Pitt will bounce back and history says they will as well, thanks to being at home, against a non-conference opponent. They will have to work for it though.

Buffalo does not have any victories of great importance, so they will be hungry to gain one over a power five foe, in Pitt. The Bulls have tangled with some of the best of the best though, after suffering losses to highly ranked Xavier and Creighton. Therefore, they are well tested this season, despite the .500 mark.

Oats took over for Bobby Hurley last season and despite some big obstacles pulled of a run to the NCAA Tourney. They pulled an upset in the MAC post-season to get there and did it without some of their main players, who were not on the roster by the time the regular season was over last season. They eventually bowed out in the first round, but not before throwing a scare into Miami. They gave Hurricane fans fits and will look to do the same against Pitt tonight.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast w/ Corey Cohen (S2 Ep11)

Corey and Jim discuss Pitt Football's Pinstripe Bowl selection and Pitt Basketball's loss to Duquesne.

In this episode of UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast, Corey Cohen welcomes Jim Hammett to discuss Pitt Football's Pinstripe Bowl selection and Pitt Basketball's loss to Duquesne. They also answer the 3 Rivers Pack of Questions and name a Panther of the Week.

Please subscribe to UnScripted on SoundCloud and iTunes and let us know if you have any thoughts or comments!

Cam Newton benched for dress code violation

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said after the Panthers' loss Sunday that he was benched from starting the game because he didn't wear a tie while traveling with the team to Seattle -- a requirement of coach Ron Rivera.

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"It came down to a dress code matter," Newton said. "I didn't follow dress code, and coach told me I wasn't going to start. I stand by his decision. His position he's in, I follow it."

Newton has been criticized plenty of times for his wardrobe choices.

"Growing up in Atlanta, I always had a sense of what fashion was, a sense of style. My parents always talked about the importance of making a first impression, and that's stayed with me," Newton said in a 2013 Esquire interview. 

One of the most notable pieces in his outfits has been his hats. They have even spawned their own hashtag, #CamCaps.

These are some of his looks at the podium this season:

<iframe src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/fall/embed?header=none&amp;border=false&amp;template=slideshow" width="100%" height="750" frameborder="no" allowtransparency="true"></iframe> <script src="//storify.com/cmgnationalnews/fall.js?header=none&amp;border=false&amp;template=slideshow"></script> [View the story "Cam Newton's outfits" on Storify]

Pro footballer runs to stands to give mom the ball after pick-six

Chiefs safety Eric Berry said he had a hard time keeping his emotions in check during his first game back in Atlanta as a professional football player. Those sentiments certainly didn’t seem to affect his play.

Berry, the former Atlanta-area high school standout, returned an interception for a touchdown and ran back a pick on a two-point conversion attempt for the decisive points in the 29-28 victory.

“I shed a few tears before the game, I shed a few during the game, and I shed a few after,” Berry said. “I think I held it together pretty good but it was a lot of emotions so I just tried to contain them and let it show through my plays.”

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It was Berry’s first time back in the city since he received chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014. Berry has been cancer-free for two years.

Berry’s pick-six staked the Chiefs to a 20-13 lead late in the first half. Berry broke for the ball as Matt Ryan tried to pass to Taylor Gabriel and then ran along the left sideline for a 37-yard touchdown.

Berry said extensive film study with Chiefs assistant Emmitt Thomas helped him anticipate the play. After scoring the touchdown, Berry handed the ball to his mother in the stands.

Proud Parents.Posted by Eric Berry on Sunday, December 4, 2016

“I made my mind up before the game that I was going to give her the ball when I got it,” Berry said. “I try to give her whatever. It won’t amount to the things she has given me, and my dad as well. There were so many nights that I would cry on their shoulder, trying to make sense of everything that was going on, and they just kept telling me to keep pressing on and that I would be back to play the game the way I want to play.”

Berry ended up with the ball again on the failed two-point conversion by the Falcons. Similar to his first interception, Berry broke for the ball as Ryan delivered, this time stepping in front of Falcons tight end Austin Hooper.

There was no official yardage on the non-timed down but Berry caught the ball near the goal line and ran untouched to the opposite end zone.

“It was a poor play on my part,” Ryan said. “I expected a combination coverage to the outside and Eric Berry did a good job of coming down and going to the tight end.”

Read more about the game at ajc.com.

Panther of the Week: Michael Young

In a week that many Panther fans would like to forget, senior Michael Young, continued to have a strong campaign for Pitt.

This past week was one that Pitt fans would like to forget and who could blame them?Just when it seemed that the Panthers were coming together and starting to get after upending favorite Maryland, Panther fans experienced a let down. With senior Jamel Artis sitting out for disciplinary reasons, the Panthers ended their 15 year wining streak over Duquesne. The Dukes took out Pitt for the first time in a good while, 64-55.

Fortunately, for us, here at Cardiachill.com, it made choosing a Panther of the Week a little easier. That’s because Artis and fellow senior Michael Young, both had strong games in the win at College Park, MD. Artis’ absence against Duquesne, however, allowed for an easy decision on our end. Young ended up running away with the award this past week.

Young started out by hitting for 25 points, nine rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block against the Terps to help Pitt to a 14 point win. The highlight was a dunk, as time was winding down, followed by a Young shushing the Maryland student section. The Terps’ students did not appreciate it, but as anyone who has spent time around the DC area will tell you, they probably deserved it.

Friday was not so kind to Pitt. With Artis out, Young tried to will the Panthers to a victory, but fell short. The senior led all Pitt players with 19 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, and finally one block. Without Artis running the point, the young Panther guards did not do Kevin Stallings, and Pitt, any favors. After dropping 22 points on Maryland, Artis sat out due to violations of the Pitt program. Stallings indicated that Artis would be back in Pitt’s game Wednesday.

Artis could have made this a tough call, and given Pitt a chance at extending their streak over Duquesne. Instead they sit at 6-2 on the young season and have a damaging loss on their resume. Hopefully the dynamic duo will be back next game and Pitt can continue to gel together. This column will be tougher to write, but I prefer that, instead of having a runaway winner.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

Pinstripe Bowl Odds/Spread: Pitt early favorite against Northwestern

It's early and with the game about three weeks away, the line could fluctuate. But for now, the Panthers look to be the early favorite.

One line has the Panthers as three-point favorites. Thanks to one of the readers in the comments section who mentioned this.

Frankly, I expected a bigger line. Pitt was nearly a 25-point favorite against Syracuse and big favorites against Duke the week before. While Northwestern is better than those teams, how much better is what I'd ask? For example, is Northwestern really 21 points better than Syracuse? Obviously the line goes by head to head matchups, so perhaps Vegas just thinks the WIldcats match up better than those teams because of their passing attack.

Northwestern, for the record, does boast a great passing attack, led by Austin Carr with nearly 1,200 yards on the season. So against Pitt's secondary, he could be primed for a big day. Still - seems a little low to me. What say you? Too low, too high, or just right?

Vote in the poll below.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
Poll What do you think of the early line on the Pitt-Northwestern game? Too low - Pitt should be favored by more Too high - Pitt should be favored by less About right   21 votes | Results

Sorting out the ACC Bowl slotting mess, Pitt missed good chance to slide into elite bowl game

Usually at some point every year, I revisit the ACC football bowl game selection process. Part of that is because it's confusing and I have to remind myself of it and the other part is I'm flat out getting old and my memory is no longer my strong suit.

After Pitt's selection into the Pinstripe Bowl, I wanted to go back and take a look at the ACC selection process. In doing so it became pretty clear that Pitt missed out on a good opportunity to sneak into an elite bowl game this year for two main reasons.

Before I mention those, here's a great resource for the ACC Bowl selection process (I mean, assuming it's correct and everything). In a nutshell, the ACC doesn't send teams purely on how they finished in the standings. Bowls are about making money and getting opposing fans to come, so that makes sense. It's a bit unfair to teams (especially as we saw last year with Pitt getting passed over by teams that made Tier One Bowls that they were ahead of) but also helps to ensure that bowls get a good chance to sell tickets and stay affiliated with the ACC. Play nice, everyone.

So since the slots aren't automatically in terms of conference standings, there's always a bit of a mess. But essentially, things work like this.

If an ACC team gets selected into the College Football Playoff, that's where they go, obviously. While the ACC is a good bet to get into there, with only four spots and five P5 conferences, at least one conference always gets left out (Looking at you, Big 12). The key thing here is to make sure you get at least one team into the CFP. Beyond getting a chance to win your conference a national championship, it's important that your best team not eat up a slot in your conference's bowl lineup. That forces everyone down a peg and is just a bad deal. Get two teams into the CFP? Even better.

After that, you've got the Orange Bowl. Now, if the Orange Bowl is not in the CFP lineup (like this year), the good news for the ACC is that they get to send a team there next. That happened this year, and they got Florida State.

Next up is the Citrus. The Citrus Bowl is typically an SEC-Big Ten Game. But in years that the Orange is not in the CFP, they can also replace the Big Ten with the ACC if the Big Ten gets into the Orange Bowl. That scenario happened this year with Michigan getting in there, so you had Louisville get into the Citrus Bowl - a New Year's Day Bowl.

Finally, remaining in the conference's top four bowls this year is the Russell Athletics Bowl. They get the second pick of the ACC (behind the Citrus after the CFP and Orange Bowl ACC teams have been taken). So instead of getting one of those three teams, they settled on Miami - not a bad settle since they're in Florida.

Now, we can talk about Pitt being hosed all we want. But if you're Virginia Tech, you're probably not real happy. They were the Coastal Division champ and runner up in the title game - yet they didn't even get into one of these four games. Them? They're headed to the Belk Bowl. Despite having a better record than Miami and winning head to head, and having an identical record to Florida State and Louisville, they were passed over by those three other bowls by those teams. Perhaps they wanted to go to the Belk over the Russell because of proximity, but they also were bested by Clemson and Florida State, and then passed up by the Citrus. Essentially, they were the conference runner up (and not all that far away from being conference champion) and ended up in the ACC's fifth-best bowl option this season.

From a Pitt perspective, there were three reasons that made this such a great year for them to get into one of these bowls. First, the ACC sent Clemson to the College Football Playoff. Had they lost against Virginia Tech, perhaps no one from the ACC gets in and that pushes everyone down a notch. But if you're Pitt, you wanted to get them in there and that's what happened. And again, it's also the reason why it's so vital for conferences to place at least one team there. Otherwise, you've got Clemson eating up one of the other three bowls.

Second, Notre Dame had a down year. That's important because if they are bowl-eligible, they can eat up a slot in the ACC's lineup. And not only that, but they can knock a better team down a peg. With them not being bowl-eligible this year, they left one of those bowls open for a team like Pitt.

In other words, Pitt had a great chance of getting into a major ACC bowl this year without winning the conference. Not that they were realistically better than teams like Florida State and Louisville - only that because the conference sent a team to the playoff and didn't have Notre Dame in the way, there were just better bowls available to more ACC teams.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

College bowl teams, schedule announced

The official 2016-17 bowl schedule and matchups were announced Sunday, a slate of games that will include the College Football Playoffs and some big matchups on New Year’s weekend.

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 Traditionally the major bowl games — Orange, Rose, Cotton and Sugar — are played on New Year’s Day. But because Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday, there is a full slate of NFL games scheduled. So the major bowl games will be played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2.

The bowl schedule begins with six games on Dec. 16 and will end on Jan. 9 with the CFP national championship game in Tampa, Florida.

One of the more attractive matchups will be played Dec. 30 in Miami, when sixth-ranked Michigan faces No. 11 Florida State in the Orange Bowl. In another big game, Big Ten champion Penn State, ranked No. 5, will face ninth-ranked USC in the Rose Bowl on Jan 2.

Selig, Schuerholz elected to baseball Hall of Fame

Former Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig and executive John Schuerholz were elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, Major League Baseball announced.

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The two men were elected by the 16-person Today's Game Era Committee, which considered 10 candidates. Schuerholz was a unanimous decision, while Selig received 15 votes. Candidates needed 75 percent (12 votes) for election.

Selig, 82, was baseball’s ninth commissioner, serving from 1992 to 2015. During his tenure, baseball expanded by four teams, the playoffs were expanded to include wild cards, regular-season interleague games were initiated and the World Baseball Classic was created. The MLB Network also debuted under Selig’s watch, and the sport experienced large economic growth.

Selig also presided over a strike that erased a large chunk of the 1994 season and caused the cancellation of that season’s World Series. The All-Star game ended in an embarrassing 11-inning tie in 2002, and in 2003 the midseason classic was used to determine the home team for the World Series. That has since been changed; MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement reached last week removed that policy beginning in 2017.

The increase in the use of performance enhancing drugs also occurred during Selig’s watch.

Selig is the fifth commissioner to enter the Hall of Fame, joining Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Albert “Happy” Chandler, Ford Frick and Bowie Kuhn.

Schuerholz guided the Kansas City Royals to their first World Series title in 1985 and later won another crown in Atlanta while leading the Braves to 14 division titles and five pennants.

Today's Game Era committee considers players whose contributions to the game have been achieved since 1988. The Modern Baseball (1970-1987), Golden Days (1950-69) and Early Baseball (1871-1949) committees cover other facets of baseball history.

Other candidates considered were Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Mark McGwire, Lou Piniella and George Steinbrenner.

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