Just like in the previous meeting between the Oakland Grizzlies and the Pitt Panthers, overtime was required to decide a winner. And just like in the 2012 meeting, the Panthers emerged victorious. Pitt defeated Oakland 81-77 in what really was a game they had no business winning.
The Panthers trailed for 27:47 of regulation and by as much as eight but none of that mattered as the Panthers leaned on their starters and the leadership of James Robinson and Cameron Wright to grab an important win.
"(We are) staying confident in what we are doing as a team," Robinson said. "Obviously we did not play as well as we wanted to tonight. But that is a really good team that we went up against so it was good to come out with a win."
The Panthers were led in scoring by sophomore Mike Young who continued his breakout year with 19 points and seven rebounds.
With the team trailing 70-67 with just 3:37 to go, Oakland was on a fast break when Young stepped in front of a streaking Jalen Hayes right before he went up for the layup and drew a charge. The charge fouled out Jalen Hayes who scored 16 points for the Grizzlies and caused an unmeasurable momentum shift.
"We have been emphasizing charges this year," said head coach Jamie Dixon. "As I told my players after the game; that was the play of the game in my mind."
Cameron Wright continued to show consistency in his fourth game back from injury with a season-high 16 points. However it was the poise that Wright showed which rubbed off on his teammates as they found themselves in a tough game down the stretch.
"He has been good in practice," Dixon said. "He has been good in the games now. We are 4-0 with him, that’s what I keep telling our guys. That is important."
The Panthers also received major contributions from junior James Robinson who contributed 18 points as well as sophomore Chris Jones who chimed in 16 points of his own on an impressive 4-6 from behind the arc.
Oakland was led by sophomore Kahlil Felder who contributed 23 points on 8-16 shooting with seven assists, and junior guard Max Hooper who contributed 12 points on an abysmal 3-10 shooting. Hooper missed the game tying three-point attempt with just four seconds to go in overtime.
Oakland head coach Greg Kampe has accumulated 523 wins in his 31-year career. Kampe and the Grizzlies fell to 0-5 all-time against the Panthers.
"I guess we have seen this movie before," a dejected Kampe said. "We’ve come in here three times, played you four now, once in the NCAA tournament and three times here. Could you ask Jamie if he could come play us at our place once? The three times we have come in here, we have led at halftime and haven’t been able to finish it."
Oakland has had an incredibly tough schedule thus far with losses to third-ranked Arizona, 23rd-ranked Michigan State and 14th ranked Iowa State. The Grizzlies will have a quick test of their short-term memory as they travel to take on Clemson on Monday night.
"We are not some program that gets happy with playing someone like Pitt close," Kampe said. "But in the same token because our team is so young, you know a sophomore, three freshmen, I think it shows that we have a chance to be pretty good."
Regardless of what you want to say about Pitt’s play, they continue to win and now sit at 8-3. With the exception of Hawaii they have beat all of the teams that they were supposed to be beat and lost to the teams that they were expected to lose to.
To me, to call this team "bad" is simply wrong. To this point in the season they have played to the level of their opponent and there is no reason to suggest that they could not finish with a winning record in the ACC. They are an incredibly young team that just got its senior leader back.
The 8-3 Panthers will host Holy Cross on Tuesday, December 23.