Montana clips Pitt in OT; Panthers' 1st home-opener loss in 21 years
Pitt's streak at the Pete is over.
Montana found its outside shooting touch in the second half Monday, then hung on to beat Pitt, 83-78, in overtime in the first round of the Progressive Legends Classic.
The Panthers had won 20 consecutive home openers, including the previous 15 at Petersen Events Center. In 1996, Pitt dropped its home opener to Illinois State, which was then coached by Kevin Stallings.
Montana, which plays in the Big Sky Conference, got its first victory against an ACC team in 51 years. The Grizzlies' only other win against the league came against Florida State in 1966.
“We came in with a lot of confidence,” Montana coach Travis DeCuire said. “As the game went on, that confidence grew. The biggest thing for us is to win these kind of games in November so we can win these games in March.”
The crowd of 3,102 was the smallest ever at the Pete. Maybe the season-opening loss against Navy was a buzzkill. Perhaps it Montana's lack of appeal — the Grizzlies, who were 2,000 miles away from their home court, had never before faced Pitt.
Or, the empty seats might have signaled dissatisfaction from a fan base that isn't used to seeing the Panthers, who started three freshmen, struggle so much on opening night at home.
“That's not something I think about,” coach Kevin Stallings said when asked about the crowd. “It's going to take patience. We've had to start over. There's going to be growing pains along the way.”
Montana was not shy about heaving the ball from the perimeter — the Grizzlies shot 7 of 24 from 3-point range. Montana also outscored Pitt 42-40 in the paint and scored 30 points off 19 turnovers.
“Give some credit to them,” Luther said. “But a lot of that was bad decision-making. I had a couple bad decisions, so it probably started with me. We've got to take better care of the ball.”
Stallings lamented poor shot selection, as Pitt shot 44 percent for the game. After building a seven-point lead, the Panthers made just 2 of 9 shots over the final eight minutes in the first half.
“It felt like we were fighting it the whole night,” Stallings said. “We don't value the right kind of shots.”
After lurching through the first half, Pitt hung tough in the second. Much of the rugged work was done by Shamiel Stevenson, who scored a team-high 19 points.
In one 30-second span, Stevenson hit a pull-up shot in the lane, then snagged a defensive rebound. That led to Ryan Luther's tap-in which pulled the Panthers within 48-47.
“We knew they weren't the greatest defensive team,” Stevenson said. “Every time I saw an opening, I took advantage.”
Luther's emphatic dunk gave the Panthers a four-point edge with four minutes to go. Turnovers negated that momentum, though, and Michael Oguine hit back-to-back 3-pointers for Montana.
“We were way too inconsistent,” Luther said. “We had too many stretches when we didn't play (defense).”
With 1:07 left, it was tied at 71.
Oguine struggled at the line for most of the game, but hit a pair of foul shots with a minute to go. Oguine led all scorers with 29 points.
Montana had the ball with 30 seconds left, but a turnover led to Stevenson's lay-up that sent the game to overtime tied at 73.
Amid a flurry of turnovers to start the extra period, Luther and Montana's Ahmaad Rorie traded buckets.
Sayeed Pridgett's underhand lob in the lane gave the Grizzlies a 79-77 edge with a minute to go. With a chance to tie it, Stevenson made only one of two foul shots.
Pitt's last chance came with under 30 seconds to go, when Luther missed an open jumper at the baseline.
“We run that play every day in practice,” Stallings said. “Every time, he's made that shot.”