Trying to rebound from the loss to No. 17 Duke, No. 18 Pitt knew it would have their hands full with the Virginia Cavaliers on Super Bowl Sunday.
Virginia, the second-leading defensive team in the nation, had just enough success slowing down Pitt and Malcolm Brogdon knocked down a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining to give the Cavaliers a 48-45 win and sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
For Jamie Dixon’s Panthers, it was all about missed opportunities.
“We aren’t finishing well around the basket,” said Dixon. “That’s starting to catch up to us. We have to get better.”
Pitt (18-4, 6-3 ACC) shot a near season-low 31.9 percent from the floor in the game and make only 57.9 percent of their free-throw attempts on the afternoon, including missing three from the charity stripe the final five minutes – two of those misfires from senior Talib Zanna.
The Panthers came out of a timeout with under a minute left and, deciding not to go two-for-one, were forced to settle for a contested jumper by Lamar Patterson.
Patterson missed the shot but freshman Jamel Artis grabbed the rebound and had the chance for the follow to put Pitt ahead with nine seconds remaining, but missed a bunny.
“I didn’t finish,” said Artis. “I have to finish.”
The game started out very slowly for both teams on the offensive end of the floor.
That was to be expected with two teams that like to defend and rebound. The pace fit the Cavaliers (17-5, 8-1) much more, who were fine with being deliberate offensively. The Panthers had some trouble speeding things up early on, but found success the final eight minutes of the half and eventually took a 23-21 lead into the break on a Cameron Wright layup at the buzzer.
Pitt had scored just eight points 12 minutes into the game, but found themselves down just 11-8. But the Panthers, along with the Oakland Zoo, seemed to get a jolt of life with a Michael Young 3 and closed the half playing pretty well.
“They were more physical than us,” said Young. “We needed this one after the loss to Duke. To get outrebounded by one is unacceptable. They are a very good team. We just didn’t come out ready to play and we missed a lot of opportunities. We needed this one.”
Both teams had to take advantage of their limited opportunities though as both teams shot only 37.5 percent (9 of 24) from the floor in the first half.
However, one thing that didn’t make Dixon happy was the fact that Virginia outworked the Panthers on the glass for most of the game. The Cavaliers outrebounded Pitt 33-32 on the afternoon, grabbing 11 offensive boards in the process.
“We always talk rebounding and we didn’t get it done,” said Dixon. “We have to outrebound teams by a large margin and two games in a row we didn’t get it done.”
The Panthers had chances in the second half, but never really got anything going.
It looked as if Pitt was going to grab some momentum with about seven minutes remaining when Virginia’s Joe Harris missed a pair of free throws. Wright followed with a desperation 3 as the shot clock expired to give Pitt a three-point lead, but the Panthers went cold following that.
It didn’t help matters that Patterson struggled for the second consecutive game. The senior was in foul trouble and had to sit much of the second half, but when he was on the floor, he made only 3 of 14 shot attempts.
Before Brogdon’s game-winning shot, Virginia went nearly eight minutes without making a field goal, but the Panthers couldn’t take advantage of the situation as the game never was more than a one-possession game the entire second half.
“That was a hard-fought game,” said Virginia head coach Tony Bennett. “It was all about getting stops. It may have looked ugly in terms of the score, but both teams played so hard defensively that there weren’t many good looks to be had on either side.”
Artis led the Panthers with 11 points, while Patterson was also in double figures with 10.
Brogdon led all scorers with 16 and the Cavaliers Akil Mitchell chipped in a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Pitt will be back in action Wednesday at Miami.
“We simply didn’t get it done,” said Dixon. “Not a good week for us. We have to do a better job executing both offensively and defensively. We lost to two really good teams, but they were home losses. If you want to win the league, you can’t have home losses. We have to get ready for Miami and start executing better.”