Pitt holds off UConn for tough Big East victory
As its 13-point halftime lead vanished, Pitt found itself in a familiar setting: The Panthers were in another closely contested Big East game at Petersen Events Center, and the outcome depended upon how they played in the final four minutes.
That's when Pitt showed what it has learned from home losses to Cincinnati and Marquette. Led by freshman point guard James Robinson, the Panthers showed patience and poise for a 69-61 victory over Connecticut in the final Big East regular-season meeting between the rivals.
It was the first league win for the Panthers (15-4, 3-3) at the Pete, this one coming one week after an overtime loss to Marquette. Where Pitt needed a last-second 3-pointer to tie that game, the Panthers took control of this one from the outset and didn't let it slip away.
“You like to finish every one,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “But we've lost a few, and when you lose, you remember those ones a little more. (Connecticut) made shots. They made plays to get back and tie it up. But down the stretch I thought we came up with the rebounds. I thought we defended well and hit free throws and got a couple of big jump shots.”
It was the second consecutive defeat for Connecticut (12-5, 2-3), which was coming off a loss to top-ranked Louisville, while the Panthers won their second straight heading into Tuesday's game at Providence.
Pitt has road victories at Georgetown and Villanova, but this was its most complete performance at the Pete in Big East play.
The frontcourt of freshman Steven Adams (nine rebounds, three blocked shots) and senior Dante Taylor (six points, seven rebounds) controlled the paint, as Pitt jumped out to a 35-22 halftime lead. The Panthers held a 23-15 rebounding edge and scored 18 points in the paint, including 14 second-chance points, in the first half.
The Huskies missed on 9 of 11 3-point attempts in the first half but took advantage of Adams being out with four fouls in the second half. UConn shot 57.7 percent (15 of 26), as sophomore guard Ryan Boatright beat Pitt off the dribble to score 16 of his game-high 20 points while freshman Omar Calhoun (14 points) made three 3s.
“They took it to us in the first half. You can't spot a good Pittsburgh team 13 points in the first half,” Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie said. “We've got to play for 40 minutes. I thought we played for 20. You can't do that in the Big East.”
The Panthers beat UConn on the boards, 38-27, switched to a zone defense that held the Huskies to 29.2 percent shooting (7 of 24) in the first half and sank 12 of 15 free throws in the second half.
The Huskies rallied behind Boatright, who converted a three-point play to tie it at 58-58 with 4:09 remaining. Robinson, who had 12 points, answered with a 3-pointer to put the Panthers ahead. Taylor made two free throws and a 15-foot jumper in the final 2:47, and Robinson's four free throws in the last 30 seconds sealed it.
“In the games that we lost, we let it go at the end,” said Pitt forward Lamar Patterson, who scored a team-high 14 points and had five assists. “We made a little change and fought through and got the victory.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt notebook: Boyd has breakout performance in loss
- Pitt blows 10-point lead as Iowa rallies for win
- Pitt meets Iowa’s muscle
- Johnson primed for second season at Pitt
- Nothing fancy for Iowa coach Ferentz