It may have taken 2 overtimes, but the Pitt Panthers officially ended their 3-game losing streak as they beat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 101-96 at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers are now 18-7 (7-6 ACC) and avoided a bitter loss which would’ve all but damaged their already fading NCAA Tournament hopes.
The true stars of the game were F Chris Jones who got the surprise start and made it stand as he led all scorers with 23 points. But the second star truly made the difference as G James Robinson just missed a triple-double with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists. He played the game that many hoped he would eventually play. And his steal late in the first half was quite heroic as he tied the game with seconds left.
Pitt opened pretty strong with a pair of 3-pointers as Jones nailed both shots. In fact, the Panthers had an 8-3 lead and was looking pretty inspired before Wake Forest came storming back.
F Dinos Mitoglou and G Bryant Crawford helped lead the way for the Demon Deacons as they manhandled the Panthers and eventually took a 12-11 lead before the Petersen Events Center crowd could even get settled into their seats. Plus, it didn’t help that the Panthers began to look like the team who lost their last 3 games. Lack of offense, turnovers and bad defense played a part in them falling apart early in this game as suddenly trailed Wake Forest 22-15 with over 13 minutes to in the first half.
After HC Jaime Dixon called a timeout to gather his team, Wake Forest continued to put points in the board, while Pitt did not. F Cornelius Hudson left the bench and hit their next 5 points as they led Pitt 30-24 with over 8 minutes to play in the half. Then the Panthers finally woke up as Jones his scoring going with 2 free throws and F Jamel Artis joined the party with a jumper and a layup, and then F Cameron Johnson got 2 points on a dunk and Pitt only trailed by 4.
With Pitt trailing by 3, Jones did it again, with his third 3-pointer of the game, tying the game at 33, and then F Mike Young scored his first 2 points of the game as he gave the Panthers a 35-33 lead before the half.
In the second half, the Demon Deacons took the lead yet again on a 3-pointer by F Codi Miller-McIntyre. But back came Jones and the Panthers as his layup gave returned the lead to them. Then Robinson and Artis hit baskets and the Panthers suddenly led 43-38.
But the Demon Deacons wouldn’t go away as they close Pitt’s lead to 43-42 before the first timeout of the half. But then Pitt added to their lead as Robinson, Artis and Jones extended Pitt’s lead before Wake Forest scored 2 more as Pitt led by 9, their largest lead of the night.
Young added to that lead with a 3-point play before Wake Forest added 2 more as Pitt now led 56-48. Hudson then hit a 3-pointer, closing Pitt’s lead to 56-52. And after Wake Forest then closed the gap to 2 points, suddenly the game was tied at 56 with 6:56 left to play.
But Pitt C Rafael Maia returned the lead to his team after he hit 2 free throws, but then McIntyre’s layup tied the game once again. Wake Forest then led 60-59, but after Young tied it again, Crawford nailed another 3-pointer, but then Jones hit another 3-pointer, tying the game at 63.
But it didn’t last long as Wake Forest then scored 5 more points and led 68-63 with 3:39 left in the game. Artis then closed the gap as he hit 2 free throws, and then Young showed signs of life when he added 2 more on a layup to close the gap to 68-67.
After Wake Forest got a shot-clock violation, F Ryan Luther’s tip-in gave Pitt a 69-68 lead with 1:42 left in the game. Wake Forest then tied the game before a timeout with 44.5 left in the game. Wake Forest hit another 3-pointer before Robinson hit a 3 of his own to tie the game at 72 before time expired.
In overtime, Hudson opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, giving Wake Forest a 75-72 lead. After Luther added 2 free throws, Young then added a dunk as Pitt trailed 77-76. Robinson then gave Pitt a 78-77 lead. But then the Demon Deacons took a 79-78 lead before Young hit 2 free throws to give Pitt an 80-79 lead.
Jones then stole the ball before he was fouled and hit 1 of 2 free throws. But then Hudson hit another 3-pointer giving the Demon Deacons an 82-81 lead with 22.4 seconds left. Luther then went to the line-and missed both free throws, giving the ball back to Wake Forest with 9.6 left. But then Robinson had an amazing steal and he went to the line and tied the game to send this game into double overtime.
The second OT began with Artis heading to the line and hitting both free throws, giving Pitt an 84-82 lead. But after Young lost the ball on yet another turnover, Crawford then tied the game with 2 free throws. Robinson then gave Pitt the lead with a jumper, but then Jones would foul out after committing his 5th foul which sent McIntyre to the line as he tied the game once again.
Artis then hit a jumper to give Pitt an 88-86 lead before Hudson hit yet another 3-pointer and Wake Forest had an 89-88 lead. Young then caused another blunder, giving the ball back to Wake Forest who then turned the ball over to the Panthers. Artis then gave Pitt back the lead with a jumper and after Robinson got the rebound, F Sheldon Jeter then gave Pitt a 92-89 lead with a timely jumper with 56.5 left in the game.
Robinson then hit 3 much-needed free throws to extend Pitt’s lead to 95-91. And after Artis was fouled, he tried to seal the game with 2 more Free throws but then Hudson then provided another scare with-yet another 3-pointer. Closing the gap to 97-94, but then Robinson hit 2 more free throws and then Young officially sealed the game when he added 2 more free throws to confirm the 101-96.
For the Demon Deacons who looked nothing like their 10-16 (1-13 ACC) record, Hudson played his heart out as he led his team with 22 points on 6 three-pointers. F Devin Thomas led with 7 rebounds and McIntyre led with 9 assists.
“They all sting. Losing sucks. There’s no other way to put it.”-Demon Deacons HC Danny Manning said.
As Pitt struggled (especially defensively) against one of the worst teams in the ACC, they will now shift to play some of the ACC’s best as they will travel to Syracuse to play the Orange (15-10, 8-5 ACC) Saturday and will then return home to play #18 Louisville (19-6, 8-4)
When asked about the defensive struggles Dixon replied “You’d think we’d have it figured out by now.”
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