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Pitt tops Syracuse for second straight win, 80-75

Wondering where this Pitt team has been? Join the crowd.

Things got a little hair at the end as Syracuse closed the gap, but the Panthers continued their mini-resurgence with an 80-75 win against Syracuse on Saturday. And while it's only the team's second victory in a row, it marks the fourth consecutive strong effort we've seen when you count the road losses to North Carolina and Duke where they hung with both teams.

Jamel Artis' ankle, which was a concern coming in, seems fine.  I thought he was moving around a little timidly on defense at the start of the game but he looked back to his former self a little later. On the day, he finished with 16 points and ten assists. That assist number is a season-high and quite possibly a career-high. Michael Young added 21 points and Sheldon Jeter had 11 rebounds.

But it was Cam Johnson, who led the team in scoring with 22 points while knocking down 6-8 three-pointers. Cam had a couple of rough games in his past two contests. He rebounded fairly well in those games and also played some good defense with five steals, but he had a total of only ten points on 3-12 shooting. Seeing him play so well on the offensive end was a great thing to watch.

Also noteworthy in this game was that Michael Young played his first game in a while without the face guard he'd been wearing.

Personally, I enjoyed a couple of things in particular about today's game. First, there was the effort on defense. Pitt was hustling around out there, going for loose balls, and not conceding much of anything. There were a few lapses, but they were solid at both ends of the court today. They gave up 75 points so it's not as if they pitched a shutout or anything, but if you watched the game, you could see the defensive intensity was there.

And speaking of hustle, what Pitt did to Syracuse on the boards was criminal. The Panthers outrebounded Syracuse, 41-25, and that was as big a reason as any why they were able to win.

On offense, Pitt also adeptly handled a Syracuse trap for much of the second half. Even when the program has had good point guards, they've struggled with breaking presses at times. There weren't any such issues today as Pitt was mostly pretty good at not only getting the ball past midcourt, but getting fast break points, too.

It's not as if Pitt played a perfect game, too. That made the win even more impressive. The Panthers had 17 turnovers on the day and need to clean some of that up. But that was about the only thing they did wrong today.

Where Pitt goes from here isn't exactly clear. If we're being honest here, Pitt isn't exactly playing themselves back into NCAA Tournament contention right now. But if they've proven anything, it's that they're not simply going to roll over and die just yet.

Next up is a Valentine's Day date with Virginia Tech at home. If the Panthers can pull off a win there, suddenly that next game against No. 14 Florida State after it looks a lot more interesting.

With a couple of wins, where are you at with the season? Let me know 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 After two wins, what are your thoughts on the state of Pitt basketball? Feeling much better - all aboard the Kevin Stallings train A little better - definitely more interested Okay, but not much has changed This is fools gold - it won't last   38 votes | Results

Against the Odds: Cuse gets the slight edge from Vegas over Pitt

Syracuse rides a five game winning streak and Vegas gives them a slight edge over Pitt

It’s an old-fashioned Big East matchup this afternoon at The Pete when Syracuse tangles with Pitt. No word on if Kevin Stallings will celebrate and set his DVR for this old rivalry. He probably won’t have a problem with this game as we expect the final score to get out of the 50s. The Cuse rides a five game winning streak, while Pitt finally got off their eight game slide with a road victory over Boston College last time out. Vegas still gives Syracuse a 1.5 point edge this afternoon.

Jim Boeheim brings Syracuse to his favorite venue today at 16-9 and 8-4 in the conference. Pitt bumped their record up, after last game, and now sits at 13-11 and 2-9 in the ACC. We tip off at 1PM and hopefully the Oakland Zoo will give the Panthers a fun atmosphere.

Syracuse has absolutely had their problems versus Pitt, but did wind up on top in their first meeting this season (or as some are now calling it Pitt AD - After Dixon). Stallings will look for Mike Young to build on his monster effort against Boston College and get some help from someone other than Jamel Artis to attempt to push together a streak. As Lou Brown once said: “You won yesterday. You win tomorrow...that’s called a winning streak. It has happened before.”

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

Brett Favre said he also lost jersey after Super Bowl win

Tom Brady’s jersey was stolen after the New England Patriots’ memorable comeback victory in Super Bowl LI, and it still hasn’t turned up nearly a week after New England’s heart-stopping 34-28 win in overtime.

>> Read more trending news

However, it’s not the first time the jersey of a Super Bowl-winning quarterback has gone missing. 

Former Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre told Fox Business Network on Friday that his uniform disappeared shortly after the Packers’ 35-21 victory against New England 20 years ago in Super Bowl XXXI. 

While Favre did not say his No. 4 jersey was stolen, he did admit to “Mornings with Maria” host Maria Bartiromo that he doesn’t “know where it is and where it went.”

“What happens is there’s a massive celebration, of course, you go into the locker room – it’s mass confusion,” Favre said. “Unless you actually take your jersey off and your pants and stuff, and you put them in a bag that is secure, you don’t know because there’s people grabbing stuff, there’s laundry, guys are going in the shower, they’re hugging, there’s champagne – so, it could easily get taken.”

After Super Bowl VII in January 1973, Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula was being carried off the field at the Los Angeles Coliseum when a fan tried to steal his watch. Shula, the architect of the NFL’s only perfect season, wrestled the watch back despite the swarm of fans around him.

The person who took Brady’s jersey probably would be caught if he or she tried to sell it. Josh Evans, founder of the auction site Lelands, told USA Today that he probably could sell it for more than $1 million if the jersey was obtained legitimately

 “I would not have a hard decision to make in pricing that at a million. I think if we auctioned it off it would probably sell for a million,” Evans told USA Today. “That’s a lot for a modern jersey. The key is that you probably have to sell it very quickly because now is the time when people are the most excited and the most fanatic about these kinds of things. Five years from now something else will happen, something else will occur and it will probably go down in value.”

That’s for a legitimate sale. For a stolen jersey, Evans said the value is worthless to his company.

 “It’s such a big story that you couldn’t sell it legitimately,” Evans told USA Today. “There is probably a black market for sports memorabilia. … To me it’s worth zero, but you know, legitimate it’s amazing.

“Illegitimate? It’s unsellable.”

Now watch:

No. 24 Pitt wrestling tops Iowa State, 22-15

After losing last weekend to North Carolina State, PItt's wrestling team (9-5) got things going again with a win against Iowa State (1-10), 22-15.

I didn't get around to a recap for that matchup but the Panthers had a pretty strong showing against the No. 8 Wolfpack, losing 23-15. In fact, Pitt even moved up a spot in this week's rankings despite that loss.

Things against the Cyclones started with the 133-pounders, so we actually finished with the 125-pound match after the heavyweights. 133 pounds was some way to start because it was the best matchup of the night with two top 15 guys. Ranked wrestler Dom Forys got Pitt off to a good start and got some revenge by defeating No. 11 Earl Hall, 6-2. Hall knocked Forys out in last year's NCAA Tournament and, I believe, kept him from All-American status in that bout. To say Dom wanted that match was probably an understatement. Nick Zanetta kept things going with a 9-4 win to put Pitt up 6-0.

Mikey Racciato, though, continued to struggle at 149 pounds. Last week against North Carolina State, he picked up a pin. This week, it was him on the receiving end of a pin to an unranked wrestler. Racciato's up and down season continues, unfortunately. He's still a guy you can count on to be in matches, but is losing enough this season that you can no longer expect to get three points out of him. He's really becoming the definition of a toss-up guy, which is sort of a shame. I love the way that kid wrestles.

The good news is that Pitt got those six points back as Taleb Rahmani scored a pin of his own. I'm really high on Rahmani and he just seems to be getting better and better. I don't know when it will happen but Rahmani has every bit the look of a guy that will be ranked at some point. That kid is more impressive by the week and I don't think it's a stretch at all to consider him the fourth best grappler in the lineup right now.

That put Pitt up 12-6 and the Panthers would just pull away a little from there. Teshan Campbell had yet another dominant match, winning 15-5. And while the inexperienced Donovan McAfee lost his match at 174 pounds, he was going up against an All-American and lost only 2-1. A Zach Bruce win followed as Pitt extended the lead to 19-9. Ryan Solomon won his bout 3-2 and L.J. Bentley lost by that same score to close things up, so they split. Add it all up, and Pitt wins 22-15.

Overall, it was a solid showing from Pitt. Iowa State isn't a good team and Pitt did what they should have. The Racciato pin was disappointing as was Rizzo's loss, since he held a late lead. And ultimately, you want to see Bentley doing better than the slightly better than .500 wrestler he's become. But Pitt came out and had a relatively comfortable win and their top three guys, Forys, Campbell, and Solomon, all carry some momentum in their pursuit of All-American status. Not a bad night as they have a day off before wrestling Virginia on Sunday.

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.

Ryan Luther injury drags on for Pitt basketball team

When Ryan Luther went down with a stress fracture in his foot, the initial prognosis seemed to be that he would be absent for a few weeks. With that stretching to four as of today, fans are no doubt getting a little antsy. That's especially true given the eight-game free fall the team just ended with a win against Boston College this week.

But if you're looking for Luther to be back anytime soon, you probably want to hold off on that.

Per the Trib's Jerry DiPaola, Pitt is still at least a few games away from having him back. The hope was that he could play by next Tuesday when the Panthers face Virginia Tech, but that doesn't seem to be happening:

Stallings said Ryan Luther (stress fracture in foot) won't return for Hokies Tuesday. Bone not healing as expected. Maybe 2 more weeks. — Jerry DiPaola (@JDiPaola_Trib) February 10, 2017

At this point, I'm a little non-plussed by Luther's injury. Barring something crazy like winning six of their last seven games, Pitt isn't going to the NCAA Tournament. And the idea that they need to get into the NIT to help make the season less miserable isn't something I'm all that enthusiastic about, anyway.

Luther will be back next year, so from a developmental standpoint, you want to get him out there, I guess. But as a junior with almost three years under his belt, I'm not sure he has that much more growing to do, anyway. His talent level is basically where it is and while some players see a spike from the junior to senior year (i.e. see Lamar Patterson), missing time right now isn't going to keep him from getting better next year, anyway.

Plus, if you really think about it, perhaps the minutes he would be getting are better spent by giving younger guys like Justice Kithcart more of an opportunity to grow.

There's little doubt that the Luther injury has hurt the team. But at this point in the year, a rushed return just doesn't make much sense given that the Panthers aren't likely competing for the NCAAs.

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.

Black History Month: Willie O’Ree breaks the color line in hockey

We all know about Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 broke the Major League Baseball color line when he stepped onto the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

We know less about a Canadian named Willie O’Ree, who on Jan. 18, 1958, made his debut with the Boston Bruins, becoming the first black person to play in the National Hockey League.

>> Read more trending stories

The youngest of 13 children, O’Ree was born in 1935 in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Before he was called up, he had been playing on the Canadian minor league hockey circuit since 1950.

Related: Black History Month: Ida B. Wells, journalism giant

Related: Black History Month: Faye Wattleton champions for women’s rights and health care

While it was obvious that O’Ree was black, what was less obvious was the fact that he was 95 percent blind in his right eye, having been struck by a puck in the eye. O’Ree managed to keep it secret throughout his career.

He played in only two games in 1958 before being sent back down.

He returned to the league in 1961 and scored four goals with 10 assists in 43 games for the Bruins. But that would be the last season he would play in the NHL. Unlike Robinson, O’Ree didn’t usher in a generation of black hockey players.

It would be 13 years after O’Ree left the league that another black player would follow him. And according to the NHL, there have only been a total of about 75 black players in the league.

Today, despite stars such as P.K. Subban, Jarome Iginla and Dustin Byfuglien — and the legacy of hall of famers such as Grant Fuhr and pioneers like O’Ree — blacks make up only about 5 percent of the players in the National Hockey League.

Headlines the day after Tom Brady was drafted are quite amusing

Hard to figure. Somewhat curious.

>> Read more trending stories  

In the pantheon of “words that can come back to haunt you,” those rank up there. They were uttered in the spring of 2000 when the New England Patriots selected Michigan quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round.

While everybody can be forgiven for not recognizing that the course of pro football history had been changed — that Brady’s career would surpass the 198 players taken ahead of him collectively — a look back at what was said then is more than a reminder the draft is a crapshoot.

“Brady pick hard to figure” said the headline in The Boston Herald. “What’s with that?” the paper went on to say. “Why another quarterback? The Patriots already have their franchise starter in Drew Bledsoe, a proven veteran backup in John Friesz, and a young developmental player in Michael Bishop.”

Absolutely. Let the first stone be cast by any of those among us who has never said you don’t need Tom Brady when you have Michael Bishop.

But there’s more. Massachusetts’ Telegram & Gazette called the Brady pick “somewhat curious.” The Boston Herald used a similar description, only not being in such a gracious mood, it dropped “somewhat” as a qualifier.

Days later, as the Patriots began rookie orientation camp, The Herald speculated on which quarterbacks would be the odd men out, concluding Brady and Bishop “would be trade possibilities.” At least the report warned against picturing Brady on the practice squad. Another team probably would claim him, it said.

A calming voice belonged to Belichick, who said Brady was simply the highest-rated guy left on his board.

“He’ll make everybody forget Drew Bledsoe, win five Super Bowls for us, become a Hall of Famer and supplant Joe Montana as the consensus pick as the greatest quarterback ever,” Belichick said at the time.

In reality, Belichick did not say any of that.

“We’ll put him out there, let him compete and see what happens,” is what Belichick did say.

Entering the draft, the consensus was there were at least a half-dozen quarterbacks more coveted. The Los Angeles Times rated the best as Chad Pennington (who would eventually play for the Dolphins), Chris Redman, Tee Martin, Todd Husak and Giovanni Carmazzi. Lumped under the label “the rest” was Brady, at No. 10.

Carmazzi actually warrants a moment of attention. Coming out of Hofstra, he was taken by San Francisco in the third round. He never played a down in the NFL.

So Carmazzi did not become the GOAT. He did, however — and we absolutely are not capable of making this up — become a goat farmer who practiced yoga.

In more bland matters, the one visit Carmazzi took was to the Dolphins.

“I’m not going to say that we wouldn’t draft a quarterback,” then-Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt told Newsday. “We’ve got a couple of guys who are rated really high. … But with our quarterback situation right now, we’ve got three young guys — Jay Fiedler, Jim Druckenmiller and Damon Huard — who we’re trying to develop.”

Absolutely. Let the first stone be cast by any of those among us who has never said you don’t need Tom Brady when you have Jim Druckenmiller.

Brady had a very Brady-like reaction to not going as high as he’d hoped all those years ago.

“I don’t think disappointment is the word,” Brady said back then. “Whether it’s the second or sixth round, I think everyone starts on the same level.”

In truth, almost every franchise can pinpoint a time they lucked out in the draft. Don Shula had a chance to stick out his chest years ago when asked about one of the “smartest” picks he ever made — receiver Mark Clayton in the eighth round in 1983.

“He was there,” Shula said. “When you take somebody that late in the draft, obviously you don’t have great convictions about him. Otherwise you would have taken him a lot earlier.”

So give the Patriots credit for taking Brady.

Give Belichick credit for being a genius.

Just use a little caution in putting those two together.

In Brady’s class?

Much has been made of quarterbacks taken in the 2000 draft before Tom Brady, starting with the first QB selected, Marshall’s Chad Pennington at No. 18 to the New York Jets. But little has been said about passers evidently considered equal to Brady in terms of where they actually were drafted. Keeping in mind Brady was the 199th player taken, here’s a look at the passer taken directly before him and all four drafted after him.

Rd. (pick) ;Player ;College ;NFL

6. (183) ;Spergon Wynn ;Texas St. ;Browns

Comment: Two NFL seasons; career rating 39.5.

6. (202) ;Todd Husak ;Stanford ;Redskins

Comment: Never threw incompletion (2 for 2 career totals).

7. (212) Tim Rattay ;La. Tech ;49ers

Comment: Best career of bunch; 4,853 yards; 81.9 career rating.

7. (214) Jarious Jackson ;Notre Dame ;Broncos

Comment: Only 22 attempts in four seasons.

7. (234) Joe Hamilton ;Ga. Tech ;Buccaneers

Comment: Four seasons, 0 passes, but did lose 2 yards with one rushing attempt.

Patriots’ higher priorities?

Here are the six players the Patriots drafted in 2000 before they got around to Tom Brady.

2. (46) ;OL ;Adrian Klemm ;Hawaii

Comment: Six seasons in NFL but never started more than four games in a season for Pats.

3. (76) ;RB ;J.R. Redmond ;Arizona St.

Comment: 406 yards as rookie by far his best of six NFL seasons.

4. (127) ;OT ;Greg Randall ;Michigan St.

Comment: Starter in ’01 but career lasted only four seasons.

5. (141) ;TE; Dave Stachelski ;Boise St.

Comment: Two seasons with Saints; one catch for 5 yards.

5. (161) ;DE ;Jeff Marriott ;Missouri

Comment: Never played in NFL.

6. (187) ;CB ;Antwan Harris ;Virginia

Comment: Started total of two games in six NFL seasons.

Police release video years after incident involving Oklahoma RB

Police in Norman, Oklahoma, released the video of an interview with Amelia Molitor after she was punched in the face by former University of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon in 2014.

>> Read more trending news

In the interview, Molitor said Mixon harassed her outside of a Norman restaurant by making degrading sexual advances. She said he also used a homophobic slur toward one of her friends.

“I was definitely disturbed by what was happening outside,” Molitor said.

The interview took place on August 14, 2014, less than three weeks after the incident.

She told police that Mixon and three others catcalled her that night.

“Suggesting I go home with him and making very specific suggestions about what I could do, you know, to pleasure him,” Molitor said.

She told police she went into the restaurant because she thought it would be safe. Moments later Mixon followed her in and punched her.

“I remember like a flash of looking at Joe like he was in front of me and then it was like I got hit by a train,” Molitor said.

Mixon most recently apologized for the incident last December and said his actions were not acceptable. He was charged with misdemeanor assault in 2014 and entered an Alford plea. He was suspended from the team that season.

Norman police said they released the two-and-a-half-year-old video now because of several requests. 

Bob Costas’ long run as Olympic prime-time host ending, Mike Tirico taking over

 After a record run as the prime-time host of NBC’s Olympic coverage, Bob Costas is stepping down, the network announced in a statement on Thursday.

>> Read more trending news  

 Costas has hosted NBC’s Olympic coverage since 1992 and is now passing the torch to NBC sportscaster and former ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Tirico.

Tirico takes over hosting duties beginning with the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea, Costas himself announced on NBC’s “Today” show.

TIRICO! cc: @alroker @miketirico— TODAY (@TODAYshow) February 9, 2017

"I'm going to be like the rest of the country, watching Mike Tirico, who will be an able successor in Korea for the Winter Olympics beginning a year from today,'' Costas said.

During his 25 years at the helm of NBC’s coverage, Costas has hosted 11 Olympics and won 27 Emmy Awards, more than sports broadcaster in history.

Bob Costas makes Olympics announcementWATCH: Bob Costas is passing the Olympic hosting torch to Mike Tirico.Posted by Today Show on Thursday, February 9, 2017

Charles Oakley, NBA legend, arrested after altercation at Knicks game

Basketball fans were stunned Wednesday when an altercation erupted on the sidelines as the New York Knicks took on the Los Angeles Clippers at Madison Square Garden.

During the game, former Knick and NBA legend Charles Oakley, 53, appeared to shout at and shove security officials. Oakley was restrained and escorted out of the game by several security guards.

>> See the video here

Charles Oakley shoves Madison Square Garden security and is escorted out of the building in strange scene— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) February 9, 2017

It’s unclear what happened to cause the scuffle, but it was later reported that Oakley was arrested at the scene and would be charged with three counts of assault.

>> Read more trending news

UPDATE: @ABC7NY has learned, per NYPD, Charles Oakley will be charged with three counts of assault. #Knicks— Ryan Field (@RyanFieldABC) February 9, 2017 <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

The Knicks also released a statement on the matter. 

>> Check it out here— NY_KnicksPR (@NY_KnicksPR) February 9, 2017 <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

Oakley, one of the most famous enforcers in the NBA from the mid-'80s through the '90s, played 10 seasons for the Knicks in his 19-season NBA career. Oakley also played for Chicago, Toronto and Houston.

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