pitt at madison square gardner

After the Pitt Panthers pulled off an impressive home upset vs. the #17th ranked Duke Blue Devils on national television, it seemed like they could do no wrong. After all, they had finally beaten a ranked opponent and beat the Blue Devils for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Their NCAA Tournament status went from Critical to Stable Condition, and all looked pretty right in the world.

Now all the Panthers had to do was travel to Blacksburg, Virginia and beat the Virginia Tech Hokies, a team that they destroyed 90-71 at the Petersen Events Center 2 months ago. A victory would secure a winning season in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and give them a shot at a Double-Bye in next week’s ACC Tournament in Greensboro, North Carolina. Not to mention, strengthen their Big Dance hopes. So you wouldn’t think that the Panthers needed more motivation to beat the Hokies, right? And surely they wouldn’t lay an egg against this team as if it was a piece of cake, right? You’re probably saying “Nah, that would never happen.”

It happened.

Then Panthers picked the worst time to lay an egg as they fell to the Hokies 65-61. And to be honest, it was only that close because the team that beat Duke decided to show up with over 3 minutes left. But unfortunately, it was too little, too late by then. It got so bad that the Panthers trailed by as many as 12 points to the Hokies in the second half. Did they look past this team and was thinking about Big Dance plans? Did they think the Hokies such a pushover that they could leave their game in Pittsburgh? Whatever the reason, the Panthers didn’t show up Wednesday night.

When you shoot only 3-21 from 3-point range and only 39% from the floor overall, you aren’t going to win many basketball game. Such was the case with the Panthers, who saw their record fall to 21-9 (9-8 ACC) meanwhile the Hokies saw their record improve to 17-13 (9-8 ACC) they also now pull into a tie with the Panthers for seventh place with one game remaining for each.

After the Hokies took a 2-0 lead, Pitt went on a run, that carried them to an 8-2 lead, thanks to baskets by Fs Mike Young, Jamel Artis and G James Robinson. Later in the half they would go on another run led by F Sheldon Jeter who got Pitt to a 19-10 lead. At that point, it looked like just another day in the office for Pitt.

Apparently the Hokies didn’t get that memo as they stormed back to close Pitt’s lead to 19-18 and then took their first lead of the night when Devin Wilson’s layup gave them their 20th point. The Hokies led 22-19 before Robinson made both free throws and then they got their lead back when F Cameron Johnson hit a timely 3-pointer.

After F Ryan Luther’s layup extended Pitt’s lead to 26-22, back came the Hokies again as Seth Allen’s 3-pointer gave them a 28-27 lead as the first half ended.

In the second half, Pitt immediately took the lead as G Chris Jones made a layup, giving Pitt the 28-27 lead. The Panthers would then lead 31-30, but that would be the last time they led in this game.

With the game tied at 32, the Hokies got a 3-pointer from Justin Bibbs and then went on an incredible run that eventually gave them a commanding 48-36 lead with over 12 minutes to play. At that time, Pitt looked stunned and played like it. Meanwhile, the Hokies played the way Pitt played vs. Duke. It got so bad that at one point, the Panthers trailed 61-48.

But with 5:00 left in the game, the Panthers found life as they mounted an impressive comeback vs. the Hokies. Baskets by Artis, Luther, Robinson, Jones closed the Hokies lead to 64-61, but there was only 19 seconds left. Robinson then tried to tie the game with a 3-point attempt, but unfortunately it missed. The Hokies rebounded the ball and was fouled and after Zach LeDay’s free throw made it a 65-61 lead, it was over for the Panthers as they fell 4-points short in a disappointing loss.

LeDay led the Hokies with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Although they were out-rebounded 35-31 to Pitt, they had more points when it mattered-on the scoreboard. For the Panthers, Young led with 16 points and 9 rebounds. Artis led with 4 assists, but the stat that hurt him was his point total, which was 5. And when he struggles, so do the Panthers.

The only thing the Panthers can do now, is prepare to play the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (17-13, 7-10 ACC) in Atlanta Saturday afternoon. Although the Panthers beat them early in the season 89-94, they weren’t a pushover then, and they certainly aren’t a pushover now as they’ve been on an impressive streak. Maybe the Panthers need to be reminded of that, so they won’t lay anymore eggs against beatable teams in what’s left of this 2015-16 season.

Please e-mail Ray at ray@urbanmediatoday.com

Follow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter

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