With Pitt now out of the ACC Tournament, I figured everyone could use a pick-me-up. Recently, I put together a list of PItt's worst losses. This time I've got a list of some of the program's biggest wins. I tried to include games from every era of Pitt basketball. There were so many great games to choose from, and I could see any of the honorable mention selections making the top 10.
Pitt 55, WVU 54 (2008)
Yes, the Ramon shot. Pitt has been on the wrong end of way too many buzzer beaters over the years, and for once it went their way. This might’ve made the list if the first 39:51 of the game wasn’t an awful display of basketball. Nobody shot the ball well. Blair was 3-13 and WVU somehow managed to shoot a higher percentage from three-point range (47%) than free throws (41%) and two pointers (29%). Pitt is forgiven slightly because this game was during the stretch that Fields was out with an ankle injury and they had no one to handle the ball.
Pitt 45, Penn State 28 (1928)
Pitt capped its only undefeated season at 21-0 with a win at Penn State. They were named National Champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation. If this game occurred after WWII it would be number one on this list by a mile. Alas, there were no national tournaments back then.
Pitt 59, Wisconsin 55 (2004 NCAA Second Round)
This is possibly Pitt’s most impressive tournament win ever. Despite being the 3 seed, Pitt drew a second round matchup with Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Pitt did just enough to defeat Big Ten POY Devin Harris and the rest of the Badgers. Harris would be a top 5 pick a few months later. Luckily for Pitt, Wisconsin sophomore Alando Tucker was out for the season with a foot injury.
Pitt 76, UConn 68 (2009)
The Thabeet Flip. Blair goes for 22 and 23. Pitt gets its first win over a number one ranked team. The only thing that prevents me from having this ranked higher is my desire to not have the list be the entire 2008-2009 season.
Pitt 74, Georgetown 65 (2008 Big East Tournament Final)
Pitt wins its second Big East Championship by winning four games in four nights. The only thing I remember from this game is Young’s insane block of Hibbert in the final minute.
Pitt 80, North Carolina 75 (2014 ACC Quarterfinals)
A win that signified that perhaps Pitt could be successful in the ACC. Beating North Carolina in Greensboro avenged a four point loss in the Dean Dome weeks earlier.
The Top Ten
10. Pitt 26, North Carolina 20 (1941 NCAA Tournament)
I had to include Pitt’s only trip to the Final Four, even if there were only eight teams in the tournament. This game also holds special meaning as the lowest scoring game in NCAA Tournament history. What an excellent non-shot clock era defensive game plan by Coach Doc Carlson.
9 Pitt 70, Georgetown 66 (2001)
Early in the first half Julius Page took a pass from Ricardo Greer coming down the lane. The resulting dunk over 7’0" Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje provided the game’s signature moment, and Howland had his first signature win as coach of the Panthers. Page led all scorers with 18 points, and the previously unbeaten Hoyas were held without a point over the final 3:48.
8. Pitt 65, Duke 64 (2007)
A battle of two unbeaten and top 10 teams at MSG, what more could you want from a December non-conference game? Down by as many as 16 in the first half, Pitt came back to force OT on the strength of Blair’s rebounding (20 total boards) and Jon Scheyer’s inability to hit water if he fell out of a boat that night (1-10 shooting). The game went to OT and Fields took over. Duke wouldn’t lose again until the middle of February.
7. Pitt 72, St. John’s 71 (1983)
When Pitt moved to the Big East in 1983, it came with a huge increase in competition. The team had moderate success in the Eastern 8, but the Big East was an entirely different animal. In the six years Pitt was in the Eastern 8, its members spent a combined 12 weeks ranked in the AP poll and three of those six didn’t feature a single ranked team at any point. Never once were multiple teams in the polls.
On the flip side, Pitt looked at their 1982 schedule and saw two meetings each with #2 Georgetown and Patrick Ewing, #5 Villanova, and #19 St. John’s. Pitt was still looking for its first win over a ranked team in their new conference when #5 St. John’s came to the Field House on February 1. The early part of the game was dominated by Chris Mullin of St. John’s as he rained jumpers from all over the court. He would finish 9-12 from the field and 2-2 from the line for 20 points. But in the second half, Pitt switched to a full-court press and held Mullin scoreless in the final 10 1/2 minutes. This is notable because it might be the last recorded instance of Pitt running a successful full-court press. Pitt didn’t hit a field goal in the final six minutes but it didn’t matter because they made their free throws (28-35). Clyde Vaughn and Andre Williams led the Panthers with 24 points a piece. The victory kick-started a run in which Pitt would defeat St. John’s, #20 Syracuse and #14 Georgetown in a span of 19 days.
6. Pitt 85, Syracuse 84 (1988)
Pitt was up and down in their first four years in the Big East. They were capable of beating good teams on a given night (see #7), but couldn’t put it together for an entire season. They had finished 6th, 6th, 5th, and 6th in the standings. In 1987 they broke through by tying for the conference regular season lead with Georgetown and Syracuse at 12-4. Georgetown won the tie-breaker for sweeping both Pitt and Syracuse while Pitt was number 2 for its own season sweep of the Orangemen.
The next season Syracuse and Pitt met at the Carrier Dome in the regular season finale with identical 11-4 conference records. The winner would claim the Big East outright. Syracuse won the first meeting 84-75 at the Civic Arena a month earlier. After Syracuse grabbed an early 2-0 lead, Pitt would score the next 10 and never trail again. Syracuse trailed by as many as 14 but tied it at 79 with 2:38 left. Pitt went ahead 85-82 on two Charles Smith free throws and Syracuse missed two game-tying three point attempts in the closing seconds. In a league dominated for most of the decade by Georgetown, Syracuse, and St. John’s, Pitt was finally on top. Since this is a happy article, we’ll just assume the season ended on that night.
5. The Entire 2001 Big East Tournament
Pitt Basketball’s resurgence began with a four-game stretch in March of 2001. Pitt had six Big East Tournament wins total (and never multiple wins in the same year) prior to this year. They began the run with a relatively easy win over a sneakily-talented Miami squad led by long-time NBA veterans John Salmons and James Jones. Next they shut down two-time consensus All-American Troy Murphy and Notre Dame in the quarterfinals 66-54. To put into perspective what an incredible defensive effort this was, Murphy (college career avg 21.4 ppg) scored in double figures in 92 of his 94 games played. He had eight that night. After a nail-biting 55-54 OT win over Syracuse in the semi-finals, Pitt finally ran out of gas against Troy Bell and BC in the finals. Pitt trailed by five midway through the second half, but a 19-0 BC run put the game out of reach. A disappointing finish, sure, but they would be back.
4. Pitt 74, UConn 56 (2003 Big East Championship)
A third straight trip to the Big East Final gave Pitt their first championship. The Panthers annihilated the competition, beating Providence by 10, BC by 26 and UConn by 18. The 18 point average margin of victory was the third-highest total for a tournament champion in the history of the Big East (Seton Hall 18.33 ppg 1993, BC 21 ppg 2001).
3. Pitt 60, Xavier 55 (2009 East Regional Semi-Finals)
After four failed attempts, Pitt finally got over the Sweet 16 hump. Poor shooting nights from both teams led to an incredible 35 offensive rebounds (18 Pitt 17 Xavier). I can still hear Lundquist and Raftery’s call of the go-ahead three by Fields.
Raftery: Tough shot…
Verne: Jumper noooo. YES!!!!
Raftery: OOOOOHHHH!!!! HOW BOUT THIS KID!!?! LEADERSHIP QUALITY!!! OOOHHHH!!! EARLY!!! ONIONS!
2. Pitt 98, WVU 95 3OT (2010)
This was probably the most exciting game in the Pete’s history, and beating your chief rival’s best non-Jerry West team ever put this high on the list. Gibbs and Woodall led a 9-2 run in the final minute to tie it. Each team had shots to win the game at the buzzer. WVU PG Truck Bryant missed a jumper at the end of regulation but then tied it with a three-pointer in the closing seconds of the first OT. Gary McGhee missed a game-winning tip at the end of the second OT before clutch free throws closed it out in the third extra session. You can watch the end of this one in all its glory here. Here’s the steal by Robinson, sideline tip-toe by Wanamaker and game-tying three by Gibbs to complete the comeback.
1. Pitt 70, UConn 60 (2009)
In my opinion this game was the apex of Pitt Basketball. A Sunday afternoon nationally televised game between the #1 and #3 ranked teams in the country. A record crowd saw Sam Young pour in 31 to lead Pitt to their second win over a top-ranked team. This was also the first ever Zoo sleepover (now a more regular occurrence) in which 50 or so students slept on the floor of the Pete the night before. The Oakland Zoo twitter account was created that night as well. Having been one of those 50 students, this game and the night that preceded it were some of my very best memories of college.
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