Fighting for their NCAA tournament lives, the Pitt Panthers traveled to the Littlejohn Coliseum in Clemson, S.C., to face the Clemson Tigers on Saturday afternoon. Both teams entered the contest tied for fifth place in the ACC with 10-7 conference records.
Earlier this season, Pitt dismantled Clemson 76-43 before their mid-to-late season slump began. Since that game nothing has come easy for the Panthers.
This game was no different. In a very nervous back-and-forth battle, Pitt came out on top with a 83-78 overtime victory to strengthen their tourney resume and secure the No. 5 seed in next week’s ACC tournament.
The Panthers (23-8, 11-7 ACC) were lead by senior guard Lamar Patterson, who scored 30 points while adding seven rebounds, two assists and a steal. Junior guard Cameron Wright contributed 16 points, five assists and four rebounds. True freshman Josh Newkirk scored a game-tying jumper as the clock expired in regulation to send the game to overtime.
For Clemson (19-11, 10-8 ACC), forward K.J. McDaniels had 24 points, four rebounds and four assists. Forward Jaron Blossomgame scored 14 points and six rebounds.
Pitt went into the half down 38-29, and Panthers fans were very nervous.
Pitt came out in the second half and played more aggressively and tighter on defense. The Panthers went on to tie the game 56-56 at the seven-minute mark with a Patterson layup.
But Pitt could not take the lead, and Blossomgame knocked down two free throws to lead 67-62 with 13 seconds remaining.
Patterson drained a 3-pointer with three seconds remaining, then Harrison turned the ball over and Newkirk picked it up and buried a jumper just before the clock ran out.
Officials reviewed the shot and awarded it to Pitt. Finally, the Panthers got some redemption on a desperate try at the buzzer.
Moving into overtime, Pitt seized control and took over the game. From the end of regulation through most of overtime, Pitt took over with a strong 15-2 run. It was nice to see Pitt continue to play through their offense and try to score, instead of milking the clock.
Pitt came to Clemson with a 6-2 ACC road record, looking to tie for the best league road record in school history.
Entering the game, Pitt was projected as a 10 seed by ESPN and CBSSports.com, but a loss would have seriously jeopardized the Panthers’ tournament hopes.
Pitt jumped out to a 17-13 lead early on, and the Tigers seized control, taking a 32-21 lead off of a Blossomgame 3-pointer.
Watching the game with some Pitt and WVU fans, Pitt fans told me that the Panthers have exceeded expectations coming into the year, and it looks like Jamie Dixon’s team will earn a spot in the Big Dance.
Pitt and Clemson will now await their opponents for the ACC tournament. With the victory, Pitt clinches the No. 5 seed and a first-round bye. The top four seeds get double byes.