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GAME RECAP: Pitt loses lead late, falls to VCU 71-67

Turnovers loom large as Panthers lose third straight

NCAA Basketball: Legends Classic Consolation Game-Pittsburgh at VCU Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Despite an improved performance from the semi-final, Pitt lost the 3rd place game of the Legends Classic to VCU 71-67 at Barclays Center last night. Blake Hinson led Pitt with 18 points and Jamarius Burton added 14 points and 7 rebounds. Pitt was again without John Hugley who was held out after missing a bit of time in the Michigan game.

The first half was a game of mini runs. With the score tied at 11, VCU went on a 6-0 run to go up 17-11. Pit countered with a 9-2 run to take a 20-19 lead before VCU immediately answered with a 7-0 run. They exchanged a few more baskets and went into the break with VCU up 30-24,

In the second half, VCU scored the first basket, but the Panthers came back with a 14-0 run to claim a 38-32 lead with 14:41 remaining. Hinson hit a huge 3 to put Pitt up 57-52 near the under four timeout. The Panthers maintained their lead at 60-56 with 2 minutes left. Sadly, a huge set of plays from VCU forward Brandon Johns Jr. (A Michigan transfer), gave the Rams a lead they would not relinquish. He had a 3 point play, a steal after a bad pass from Greg Elliott, and made another set of free throws. Hinson missed a three and VCU made 8-10 free throws down the stretch to close it out.

Main storylines from tonight’s game are the turnovers (Pitt had 18) and the free throw discrepancy (VCU: 26-35 Pitt: 14-21). None of Capel’s Pitt teams have been great shooting teams, but they have often been able to stay competitive by getting to the line. Pitt did have the same amount of FTM against both WVU and Michigan so this could just be a product of an always aggressive VCU defense. The Diaz-Graham twins played well and have earned more playing time moving forward. They have an obvious need to get stronger, but the basketball IQ is there. Pitt’s schedule eases up with games against Alabama State, Fairleigh Dickinson, and William & Mary. Pitt is hopefully good enough to win those three games without Hugley so I would let the big man rest until the Nov. 28 matchup with Northwestern in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge.