Pitt men's basketball falls to Virginia in ACC Tournament 2nd round
BROOKLYN — Pitt's worst season in recent memory came to end Wednesday night following a 75-63 loss to sixth seeded and No. 21 Virginia in the second round of the ACC Tournament at Barclays Center.
Whereas Virginia (22-9) advanced to meet third seeded Notre Dame in the 9 p.m. game Thursday night, the Panthers (16-17) are likely to return to Pittsburgh to begin the post-mortem on a season which coach Kevin Stallings publicly criticized his team's approach, had to discipline seniors Michael Young and Jamel Artis for being late to a team function, and dismissed freshman Justice Kithcart.
“It's been a challenging year for all of us,” Stallings said after the game, as Artis sat alongside him on the podium.
Wednesday night's neutral court game marked the third time Pitt and Virginia met this season. The Panthers won the first meeting, 88-76, at Peterson Events Center on Jan. 4, but were blown out, 67-42, in the regular season finale for both last Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va. That was the game where Stallings sat Young and Artis for the first 10 minutes in response to the duo being 10 minutes late for a team meeting.
“I don't think there's any question that it's been dysfunctional at times,” said Stallings, who later said that the “culture” at Pitt would have to change to something he would be “comfortable with.”
“It needs to reflect the things I believe in,” Stallings said. “It's going to be a culture of accountability, a culture of unselfishness, of trying to do the right thing on and off the floor. I'm not saying these are shifts in what the culture has been in the past. I don't know what the culture was before I got here. I'm just saying what it needs to be.”
Cameron Johnson led the Panthers with 20 points. In their last college game, Artis had 18 points and Young had 14 before coming out with a little more than a minute left.
The Cavaliers led 34-23 at halftime on the strength of a 10-1 run spanning the final 4:16 of the first half. Benefitting the nation's best adjusted defense team per KenPom.com's rankings, the Cavaliers forced Pitt to misfire on 13 of its 20 shots from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
For the game, Pitt only made 18 of 45 shots from the field.
That Virginia is among the nation's premier defensive teams is not a state secret. What isn't as well known is that the Cavaliers entered the primetime matchup ranked 38th in the nation in KenPom.com's adjusted offense efficiency ratings. Which was on full display in a first half where the Cavaliers shot 46.4 percent from the field—including knocking down 7 of 14 threes.
The Cavaliers finished the game having shot 49 percent from the field—24 for 49—and made 11 of 22 threes.
“Congratulations to Virginia,” Stallings said. “They just played better than we did. Our inability to keep them from effective 3-point shooting cost us for the whole game, really.”
Trailing by 11 at the start of the second half, the group who Young said after Tuesday night's win over Georgia Tech “believed” could author an improbable run in the ACC Tournament, sliced the deficit to one, 44-43, following Sheldon Jeter's two-handed dunk.
“We certainly had the momentum at that point,” Stallings said.
Any upset hopes were dashed shortly thereafter.
London Perrantes knocked down two free throws to extend the lead to two, and Kyle Guy's straightaway 3 pushed the advantage to 49-44. The lead grew to as much as 14, 68-54, following Isaiah Wilkins' layup.
Guy finished with 20 points. Perrantes had 15, and Ty Jerome added 11.
“[The deficit] was one, then it was seven or eight real quickly,” Stallings said. “I thought they started to take the ball to the basket on us a little more in that stretch.
“All of a sudden they had separation.”
In other action Wednesday, Miami beat Syracuse, 62-57. Duke topped Clemson, 79-72, and Virginia Tech outlasted Wake Forest, 99-92.
Denis P. Gorman is a freelance writer.