James Robinson hit a clutch three pointer with under 30 seconds left to bring the Panthers to a tie with #12 MIami on the road. Pitt then forced a low percentage, contested three from the corner with five seconds left. A rebound surely sends the game to overtime, or at the very least enough time for Pitt to call a timeout and run a set for a last shot. Instead, Pitt allowed two offensive rebounds, including a devastating tip-in by Angel Rodriguez, the shortest player on the floor to give the Canes a 65-63 victory.
The loss dropped Pitt to 17-6 (6-5) on the year. All things considered, it was a good rebound from this Pitt team from an effort standpoint. Virginia slaughtered them just days before on their home floor, and with a trip to a top 15 team on the horizon, optimism was not high heading into this one. Yet, Jamie Dixon opted for a modified 3-2 zone that really slowed down Miami in the first half. Pitt held a 4 point halftime lead, although a miracle running three-pointer by Sheldon McClellan made it that margin.
Pitt received 28 points from their bench, including 8 points from Chris Jones that all came in a crucial point in the second half. Ryan Luther had a memorable game with 12 points and 7 rebounds as well. Even Pitt's often criticized starting point point guard, James Robinson, overcame a shaky game and confidentially drilled two three pointers late in the game. Big contributions from role players nearly stole Pitt a road victory.
The story here was Pitt's "big three" of Michael Young, Jamel Artis, and Sheldon Jeter just didn't play very well. Young finished with 12, Jeter 8, and Artis a season low 5 points. These three have carried Pitt for most of the year, but tonight was not their night. Artis was 2-10 from the floor, Young came up with just 4 rebounds, and Jeter played well in spurts but foul trouble kept him out of the majority of this game.
Obviously, this was a disappointing, yet avoidable loss. Credit Miami for making plays, but Pitt had too many mental lapses on defense and the failure to execute at the end of each half ultimately was the entire difference. Pitt's tournament hopes are definitely in question, but they aren't shot yet. They stare down a tough one with North Carolina on Sunday, but the schedule lightens up some after that. Pitt needs to continue to pick off games they should win, and maybe steal a game like this in the future, but you hate how tonight went down because it was one Pitt really could have won.
This loss stings, but it was the first time in a few weeks Pitt played a quality opponent in a close manner. Most of Pitt's losses have been downright blowouts, much like Saturday's game with Virginia, but tonight Pitt actually played a quality opponent they way they should. Dixon made some adjustments on defense, some role guys stepped up, James Robinson hit some big shots, part of the recipe Pitt has been missing in their defeats. It was encouraging in some light, but nobody is in the business for morale victories these days. Pitt travels to Chapel Hill on Sunday. Since joining the ACC, Pitt is 2-1 against the Tar Heels.