After upsetting the 15-th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday, the Pitt Panthers met up with the No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers in an ACC semifinals matchup Saturday.
Pitt was aiming to continue its revenge tour, in the midst of improving NCAA tournament seeding. The Panthers were also looking to make the ACC final in their first season in the conference.
To get there, Pitt would have to take care of business against top-seeded Virginia.
Compared to the foul-fest from the win over UNC, the referees called a totally different game Saturday, potentially costing Pitt a game-tying free throw with 10 seconds remaining.
In a defensive and gritty battle, the Panthers (25-9) fell short to Virginia 51-48 in Greensboro, N.C. Virginia will now await the winner of Duke and N.C. State in Sunday’s ACC championship game.
For Virginia (27-6, 16-2 ACC), senior guard Joe Harris scored 12 points, sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon scored 10, and sophomore forward Anthony Gill came off the bench and added 10 points and five rebounds.
Virginia jumped out to a 4-0 lead, which was the largest advantage of the first half. Both teams, appearing to be mirror images of each other, matched basket for basket.
Pitt held a 24-21 advantage late in the half as James Robinson knocked down the Panthers’ only 3-pointer of the opening 20 minutes. But Brogdon scored a layup and Harris followed up with a 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers a 26-24 advantage at the half.
The first half had 10 lead changes and six ties.
In the second half, Virginia was able to get to the basket, scoring on 8 of 12 shots from the field. The Cavaliers took a 45-37 lead with an Anthony Gill jumper at the 9:31 mark. With 51 seconds remaining, Patterson made a layup to cut the Virginia lead to 49-46.
On the ensuing Virginia possession, Robinson stole the ball from Brogdon and scored a layup with 10 seconds left on the clock. As Robinson went up for the shot, it appeared that he was bumped by a Cavalier, but no foul was called.
Gill would go on to make two free throws moments later, and Robinson’s potential game-tying 3-point attempt was blocked by Justin Anderson, securing the victory for Virginia.
The Panthers played a well-rounded game for the most part, but they fell just short. Giving the No. 6-ranked Cavaliers all they could handle, Pitt should be proud of the effort and looking forward to the Big Dance.
As we have seen all season long, Pitt can hang with anyone on the court. Currently, Pitt is projected as a dangerous No. 9 seed for the tourney.
I’m looking forward to Selection Sunday, and it will be fun to see where Pitt lands. After such a wild and crazy season with so many swings of emotion, how far would you be willing to take the Panthers?