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Pitt pulls out 2OT win over Virginia Tech

| Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, 2:45 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Cameron Wright scores over Virginia Tech's Trevor Thompson in the first half Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.

With Lamar Patterson bothered by an injured right thumb and Talib Zanna by a twisted left ankle, Pitt was in danger of losing its third consecutive home game.

The No. 25 Panthers were sparked by a pair of spectacular plays by their supporting cast.

If Cameron Wright's save of a loose ball that set up a breakaway dunk was the turning point for Pitt, James Robinson's four-point play with 33.4 seconds remaining in regulation was its saving grace.

Pitt survived another scare from an ACC doormat, pulling out a 62-57 double-overtime victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday at Petersen Events Center.

Pitt (20-4, 8-3) won't get any style points for its victory — which clinched a 13th consecutive 20-win season — but its importance is evident after it suffered back-to-back home losses to Duke and Virginia a week earlier. Pitt hosts top-ranked Syracuse on Wednesday.

It was the 10th consecutive loss for Virginia Tech (8-15, 1-10), which is in last place in the ACC. It was the second consecutive overtime game for the Panthers, who won Wednesday at Miami. The Hurricanes are tied for 13th place in league standings.

“You don't want to lose to teams you're supposed to beat,” said Patterson, the fifth-year senior swingman who scored all of his season-low five points — more than 12 below his average — in overtime. “You don't want to lose any games, actually. This team figures a way to gut it out. That shows big growth.”

Patterson, Pitt's leading scorer, played the first half with his right thumb taped. Even after taking the tape off for the second half, Patterson was limited with his right hand and it became evident he would be a non-factor as a scorer. He went scoreless for the first 40 minutes for the first time since the 2012-13 season opener against St. Mary's, but finished 1 of 9 from the field and made 3 of 6 free throws, with five assists and two steals. Zanna, who injured his ankle against Virginia on Feb. 2, finished with seven points and seven rebounds in 43 minutes.

So, the Panthers relied on Wright, who made two early 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 18 points. Virginia Tech led by as many as four, but Pitt regained the lead on Robinson's 3-pointer from the right corner at 6:42. Virginia Tech point guard Devin Wilson, a freshman from Montour, tied it at 41-41 with two free throws.

Then Wright made a dramatic play, stretching to save a loose ball from going out of bounds and tossing it ahead to Josh Newkirk. While Wright landed on the scorer's table and tiptoed along before falling off, Newkirk finished off a breakaway dunk for a 43-41 lead at 4:59.

“It was an amazing play,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “I didn't think he was going to get to it, and I'm a pretty positive guy.”

Wright sank a free throw for a 44-41 lead, but Jarell Eddie (15 points) answered with one of his five 3-pointers to tie it at 44-44 at 4:00. Wilson then drove the lane, scoring his first basket by switching from his right to left and dropped in a bank short to give the Hokies a 46-44 lead with 3:02 remaining.

Pitt's chances looked bleak when Joey van Zegeren made two free throws with 40.1 seconds left to give Virginia Tech a 48-44 edge. Wright found Robinson in the left corner for a falling down 3-pointer, drawing a foul from Eddie in the process. Robinson's free throw tied it at 48-48 with 33.4 seconds left.

“Everything fell in line for them,” Virginia Tech coach James Johnson said. “He got fouled, hit the 3 then he stepped up and hit the free throw. That kid's a winner, but that's a lot of stuff that has to happen. You can look at that play, but there were so many plays.”

After missing two free throws with Pitt trailing by two in overtime, Patterson stripped Raines and drew a foul then made a pair to give the Panthers a 52-50 lead at 1:28 in the first overtime. Wilson tied it with two free throws with 43.5 seconds left, but was stuffed on his drive to the basket in the final seconds of the first overtime. Wright was 4 of 4 from the free-throw line to give Pitt a 58-54 lead in the second overtime, and Newkirk added two free throws with 11.6 seconds to seal the victory. Virginia Tech went a combined 0 for 13 from the field in overtime.

“We were exhausted down the stretch, but I thought we fought hard and competed. We just didn't make enough plays to win the game,” Johnson said. “I thought Jamie's guys did a great job finding a way to win.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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