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Pitt fumbles ACC opener late, loses 57-56 to Virginia

The Panthers led the Cavaliers 56-55 with seconds left to play but handed them the ball with a five-second violation

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt traveled to John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville on Friday to take on Virginia in its ACC opener, and while the Panthers looked better than they did in recent outings, they still found a way to fall to the Cavaliers and took home a heartbreaking 57-56 loss.

Despite carrying a 2-4 record into the matchup and missing Femi Odukale due to an ankle injury, Pitt got off to a promising start. Jamarius Burton opened the scoring for the Panthers with a three, and John Hugley got to the foul line and knocked down two shots to give the Panthers a 5-2 advantage.

Kihei Clark would eventually put Virginia ahead, but moments later, another three, this one by William Jeffress, would put Pitt back on top. That cycle of Virginia scoring consistently and Pitt climbing back on top with a three would repeat a few times, with Pitt on top 18-16 at the midway point of the first half. However, Pitt would go cold and allow Virginia to pull out to a 30-20 lead over the next six minutes. But the Panthers would stop the bleeding, and by halftime, they had cut the lead to 30-26.

Pitt continued to claw its way back into the game at the start of the second half, as Onyebuchi Ezeakudo and Hugley both scored to tie the game at 30-30. And after a make by Armaan Franklin to regain the lead for Virginia, Hugley hit a three to make it 33-32. Moments later, a three by Ezeakudo would give the Panthers a 38-34 lead, but a Taine Murphy three and a Jayden Gardner jumper would put Virginia ahead once more, 39-38.

A 9-3 run by the Cavaliers would leave the Panthers trailing 48-42 with 7:52 left to play, but the Panthers would continue to fight. Three made free throws by Hugley and a six-point outburst from Mouhamadou Gueye would bring Pitt within one point of Virginia, with the score 52-51 with 2:56 left to play. With 54 seconds remaining, Ezeakudo would hit a go-ahead three to make it 54-52, Pitt. And 30 seconds later, Burton would knock down two foul shots to give the Panthers a late 56-52 lead.

A layup by Gardner and subsequent foul shot would make it 56-55, Pitt, with less than 10 seconds to play, and a five-second violation would hand Virginia a late possession. The Cavaliers would take full advantage of that, as they got the ball to Gardner who sunk a go-ahead jumper with less than a second left on the clock. That would make it 57-56, Virginia, and Pitt would be unable to respond.

With the loss, Pitt fell to 2-5 on the season and suffered its second consecutive one-point defeat. Meanwhile, Virginia rose to 6-3 on the season and bounced back from a 75-74 loss to Iowa. Yet again, Pitt will look to pull itself together over the next few days and try to notch a win when it faces Colgate at the Petersen Events Center next Thursday.