North Carolina State 72 Pittsburgh 68
( Pittsburgh,Pa) Things just continue to get worse for the Pitt Panthers basketball team (If that was ever possible). Just when you thought they were going to finally get their first victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) the Panthers found yet another way to lose. This time to the North Carolina State Wolfpack 72-68 in front of yet another sparse crowd at the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt led for all but the final 3 minutes of the second half when N.C. State guard Allerick Freeman’s 3-pointer gave the Wolfpack the lead. Freeman then hit 2 free throws with 8.5 seconds to secure the victory. It wasn’t easy, but they were able to use an 11-0 run late in the second half to get it done.
NC State hit the ground running storming their way to a 17-6 lead in the first half, Pitt responded with a red-hot 18-3 run lead by Panther guard Jared Wilson-Frame exploding for three 3-pointers, which helped the Junior finish with a game-high 22 points. As a team, the Panthers were 8-29 from 3-point range shooting 21 % from beyond the arch in the first half.
While NC State fell apart in the first half, the Panthers were in full control on both sides of the court. They looked like they were giving all who were watching a glimpse of what this team could look like when full of synergy. A major factor was Pittsburgh Head coach Kevin Stallings switching to a 2/3 zone defense. In fact, the defensive adjustment worked so well, that Pitt lead 43-28 with over 2 minutes in the first half. The sparse crowd was alive, with the cheerleaders encouraging them to keep the arena noisy. Pitt freshmen Marcus Carr and Shamiel Stevenson were roaring in celebration as it looked like a victory was on the horizon for the Panthers as they took a 43-33 lead into halftime, their first since Delaware St. on December 19th.The Panthers celebrated as if the game was over, and that was the problem. They still had another half to play and in sports 101, you learn that you should never count an opponent out. Unfortunately, Pitt missed that chapter.
The Panthers opened the 2nd half with the lead, but you could tell that the Wolfpack came out of the locker room with a unique perspective that helped them overcome the 10 point halftime deficit. It didn’t help that Pitt began to look like the same old Panthers again: missing shots, turning the ball over and defense disappeared spelling doom for the blue and gold.
Coach Stallings’ troops finished the game 0-6 with 2 offensive charges. To top it all off The Wolfpacks Freeman’s shot late in the game seemingly took the heart right out of the Panthers who at this point of the game appeared to conceded defeat yet again. It has truly been a nightmare season for Pitt as they fall to 8-12 but more importantly, 0-8 in the ACC, good for last place. In addition to Wilson-Frame’s 22 points, Stevenson also added 11 for the Panthers.
As for NC State, they improved to 14-7 and 4-4 in the ACC as they hope to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament a month in a half from now, and a win like this may be all they need to get there. In addition to Freeman’s 13 points, center Omer Yurtseven led with 16 points. guard Markell Johnson had a game-high 12 assists to go with 7 rebounds and 5 points and guard Torin Dorn finished with 9 points.
The Panthers must now find a way to shake off another tough loss and prepare to play Syracuse (14-6, 3-4 ACC). The Orange whoare coming off a win over Boston College (13-8, 3-5) 81-63. Saturdays game will be a rematch and a chance for Pitt to avenge a 56-45 loss suffered at the Carrierdome.The Panthers will wear retro uniforms for their next game and hopefully they will bring back some past inspiration to get their first victory. The Panthers definately need all the help and inspiration they can get.
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