No. 12 Pitt survives scare at Washington

Kevin Gorman
| Sunday, Dec. 9, 2007

SEATTLE -- Justin Dentmon dribbled down court, slipped the ball behind his back and lofted a soft shot that glanced off the rim and fell through the net.

As Washington fans celebrated, Pac-10 officials Dick Cartmell, Dave Libbey and Mark Reischling huddled around a monitor at the scorer's table to determine if Dentmon let go of the ball before the final buzzer sounded.

During that elapsed time - "What was it, an hour and a half?" Pitt coach Jamie Dixon asked - the Panthers wondered whether they would become the 32nd consecutive non-conference visitor to fall victim at Washington.

When the shot was finally disallowed after video review, No. 12 Pitt escaped with a 75-74 victory that hushed the 9,229 here Saturday afternoon at Bank of America Arena.

Washington hadn't lost at home to an opponent outside the Pac-10 since an 86-62 defeat to Gonzaga on Dec. 3, 2003, and had beaten three ranked teams here in the past four years.

"It was frustrating not knowing," Dentmon said. "It is really hard because you have it, and then they take it away from you, and it feels like everything just went bad."

Only one problem: Dentmon never actually had it.

Dixon saw replays afterward, and said "you could see it clear as day" that the shot left Dentmon's hand after time had expired. Pitt guard Levance Fields said he saw the red light flash on the backboard before Dentmon raised his elbow. The Panthers were demonstrative in their defense, with assistant coach Tom Herrion waving his arms at midcourt.

"When the refs have that decision, you never know what can happen," said Fields, who scored a game-high 20 points. "It's a tough call. It's a hard task for them to make that call. It's great we got replay, that's all I can say."

Pitt (9-0) overcame an eight-point first-half deficit to take a nine-point second-half lead, only to watch Washington (4-4) chip away at it with four 3-pointers in the final 3:24. Two were by senior Ryan Appleby, who scored a team-high 18 points on 6 of 12 3-point shooting in his season debut after surgery on the right thumb of his shooting hand. Appleby came off the bench to score 12 points on four 3-pointers as Washington took a 37-34 halftime lead.

"Appleby comes off, just in time for us," Dixon said with a sigh. "I thought that was convenient. I predicted it when he got hurt. I said, 'I know he'll be ready for us.' I was like, just our luck. He's a difference maker for their team. Add him to the mix, and they become a different team."

Fields made a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3.6 seconds left in the first half, and tied the score at 42-42 with another trey from the right corner early in the second half. Ronald Ramon's 3-pointer gave Pitt a 47-44 lead with 16:00 left, and the Panthers never trailed again, thanks to 60.9 percent shooting (14 of 23) in the second half.

"You can't be more efficient than that," Dixon said, "in this type of environment and against this type of team."

But Washington shot 45.8 percent (11 of 24) from 3-point range, and Appleby's trey with 6.8 seconds left cut its deficit to one. The Huskies fouled Fields on the inbounds, and he missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw. But Pitt freshman center DeJuan Blair (16 points, 14 rebounds) came down with the rebound before becoming tangled with Jon Brockman (17 points, 12 rebounds). A jump ball was called, and Washington was awarded possession under Pitt's basket with 4.3 seconds remaining.

"I didn't get an explanation on that," Dixon said.

The Huskies inbounded to Dentmon, a 5-foot-11 junior who "saw three seconds on the clock and thought I could get off a shot by running the floor." Dentmon was covered by Ramon, who forced him to the right sideline and then cut Dentmon off after he crossed midcourt, forcing him to switch hands twice in a split-second.

"I guess he turned him just enough to make him take that shot," Dixon said. "Not often do you have that type of situation ... when you turn a guy twice on a length of the court with (4.3) seconds, you've done your job."

Until it became official, the Panthers worried that they were about to be handed their first loss of the season in a hostile environment -- just like last year at Wisconsin -- with a week off before playing host Saturday to Oklahoma State.

"To be honest, I was thinking about the worst," said Pitt forward Sam Young, who scored eight of the Panthers' final 10 points and finished with 14. "I felt in my heart that we probably lost. I was just ready to accept it.

"(Winning means) a lot, a lot," Young added, "because with that much time off, that would have been in your head the whole time until the next game. If we would have lost this game, it would have been broadened my animosity toward the team as far as how (we) played. Since we got the W, everybody is uplifted and everybody is happy. We've got confidence, and we're still motivated for our next opponent."

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