After a deflating loss to Vanderbilt on Wednesday, Pitt returned to the Petersen Events Center on Saturday afternoon to take on defending America East champion UMBC. The Panthers entered the game as 5.5-point favorites over the Retrievers, but the game would slip out of their control and UMBC would soundly defeat Pitt 87-77.
Pitt got hot from beyond the arc early in the game, with Femi Odukale, Jamarius Burton and Mouhamadou Gueye all sinking long-range shots in the first 10 minutes of the game. That allowed the Panthers to pull out to an 18-13 lead, but the Retrievers would then tie it up at 18-18 and see a momentum shift.
A foul on a made three-pointer put Keondre Kennedy on the line for a four-point play, giving UMBC a 22-18 lead in a matter of seconds. Two minutes later, UMBC’s lead had bloated to 12 points, with the bulk of that total coming on threes from Szymon Wojcik and Nathan Johnson. Pitt would periodically cut into UMBC’s lead, but with the Retrievers pouring in threes, the Panthers would find themselves down 44-29 with 4:28 left in the first half.
By halftime, Pitt had trimmed UMBC’s lead to 11 points, with the Retrievers up 55-44. While Pitt’s total of 44 points was its highest in a half all season, the 55 points scored by UMBC also happened to be the most the team allowed in a half this season. So a solid offensive outing that included an 8-of-8 showing at the foul line and 8-of-14 shooting from long range was nullified by nonexistent defense.
Pitt’s woes would continue early in the second half, as the team found itself down 61-46 three minutes after play resumed. An outburst by Gueye, which included a three, a block and a dunk in a span of 23 seconds, seemed to light a fire under the Panthers, and with 13:31 left in the game, UMBC’s lead was down to five.
The game would remain close for a few minutes amid a renewed defensive effort by Pitt and a cold streak that saw UMBC go nine minutes without a three, but Pitt would again let UMBC amass a double-figure lead. With 9:40 left, Kennedy would hit a layup to make it 71-57, UMBC. Five minutes later, UMBC would hold a 78-69 lead, and Pitt would still be struggling to get back into the game.
The Panthers would pull within seven late, but the Retrievers would keep them at arm’s length as time wound down. And when it was all said and done, UMBC had upset Pitt 87-77.
With the loss, Pitt fell to 2-4 on the season, and UMBC improved to 4-2. The game was not without its standout performances, as John Hugley led all scorers, with 21 points. Meanwhile, Odukale chipped in 19, and Gueye contributed 14 to the effort. But with that said, a loss to UMBC can’t be construed as anything but a disaster for a program like Pitt, and with Minnesota next on the schedule, it may well be an ominous sign of things to come.