Pitt can't hang with No. 23 Virginia, drops regular-season finale
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Pitt's early January win over Virginia surprised many in the ACC. The Panthers scored 88 points against the defensive-minded Cavaliers in the overtime victory.
It might have been the highlight of the Panthers' conference season. A 67-42 loss to the No. 23 Cavaliers in the rematch Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena a day after coach Kevin Stallings dismissed backup guard Justice Kithcart from the team might have been rock bottom.
Pitt (15-16, 4-14) fell without a fight, seeing its losing streak stretch to four games to close the regular season. The Panthers will enter the 15-team ACC Tournament as the 14th seed and will play Clemson on Tuesday at noon.
Virginia, (21-9, 11-7) charged to a 10-0 lead, as Pitt's leading scorers (Michael Young and Jamel Artis) did not start because they were 10 minutes late to a morning meeting.
“We're trying to establish a culture here of doing the right thing and having accountability and responsibility,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said. “We try to do the right thing for your teammates, and sometimes, even when it's not the opportune time, you have to uphold and enforce that.”
Young and Artis were held out for the first 9 minutes, 54 seconds. By that point, the Cavaliers had the game in hand.
Nothing came easy for the Panthers. They missed shots with regularity, threw the ball away and looked lethargic on defense. The Cavaliers took advantage with 16 points off turnovers in the first half and 27 for the game.
“I thought that for the first 26 or 27 minutes of the game, we got decent looks and didn't make many,” Stallings said. “We got quality looks on a lot of possessions.”
How bad was it for Pitt? It took 10 minutes, 59 seconds for its first field goal — a lay-up by Cameron Johnson, who ended the half with a putback dunk to trim Virginia's lead to 32-15.
“Offensively, we just never could generate enough to keep it going,” Stallings said. “At our place, we hit shots and were able to sustain during times we aren't able to get stops. Today, we weren't able to do that.”
While Pitt struggled, Virginia senior London Perrantes shined in his final home game. He finished with 22 points on four 3-pointers and received a standing ovation in the final minutes.
“We've had so many special players, but he's been the catalyst for what's happened,” Bennett said of the guard from Los Angeles, who has started more games than anyone in Cavaliers history and helped transform the program into an annual national contender.
“That brought me great joy just to be able to do that,” Bennett said.
Perrantes made a 3-pointer to open the second-half scoring, and Virginia's lead hovered around 20 points the rest of the way.
Young and Johnson led Pitt's offense in the second half, but the Cavaliers could do little wrong.
Perrantes made a 23-footer to run the score to 62-37, and any realistic chance of Pitt playing in the postseason slipped away with the shot.
“He is just a great competitor. I think he is a competitive, gutsy kid that wants to take and make big shots,” Stallings said of Perrantes. “He plays for his team, and I think that is most easy to admire about Tony's team is that there is complete buy in to what they do and each other.”
Young, the ACC's leading scorer, finished with 14, while Johnson had nine for Pitt.
“I don't know if I have any magic that will shift their way of thinking. When things go bad, there is a reason they're bad,” he said. “If guys are unable to fix those things that are bad, all of the motivational speeches in the world aren't going to do any good.
“Right now, as I've �been doing and will continue to do, just try to help guys get better and try to help them understand the right and wrong way to do things and hope that message hits, and we get some wins.”
Cameron Ross is a freelance writer.