No. 9 Virginia routs Pitt at home
Virginia on Saturday followed to perfection the unofficial ACC blueprint on how to defeat Pitt.
Double team junior forward Michael Young, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, and force the Panthers to beat you from the perimeter.
Build a substantial lead, and watch the Panthers crumble in the second half.
What began as a matchup of great expectations became a worst-case scenario for the Panthers (17-5, 6-4), who succumbed to No. 9 Virginia, 64-50, before a capacity crowd of 12,508 at Petersen Events Center.
The Cavaliers (19-4, 8-3) have won six consecutive games and are 4-0 against the Panthers since 2013-14.
It doesn't get any easier.
The Panthers, 0-3 against teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, visit No. 17 Miami and No. 2 North Carolina next week.
“It's disappointing to play like we did,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “Slow start early and we got back into it in the first half and put ourselves down by two (at halftime). We felt like we were going to play better the rest of the way, but we didn't.”
In each of their four conference losses, the Panthers trailed at halftime. But this time they had a legitimate chance to win.
The Panthers rallied from an eight-point deficit to pull within 29-27 at intermission. They tied the game at 31-31, then watched as Virginia went on a 26-7 run.
That marked the largest deficit of the game and, on a “Blackout” afternoon, sent many fans scurrying for the exits.
“We've got to learn how to control when we're down,” junior forward Jamel Artis said. “When we get down, we've got to come together and buy in as a team.”
The second-half collapse was fueled by seven Pitt turnovers.
“We took care of the ball in the first half,” Dixon said. “We forced stuff in the second half trying to come back.”
“We weren't attacking like we usually do,” said Artis, who committed all three of his turnovers in the second half. “We've got to attack the defense.”
Virginia coach Tony Bennett said some of the Panthers' mistakes were self-inflicted.
“A couple of those turnovers were just bad decisions,” he said. “We capitalized on them.”
When the Panthers needed their best player to rally them, Young went missing. Double teamed and forced to work hard for every shot, he scored only four points after halftime.
“We tried to double him when we could,” Bennett said. “We did a good job of not giving him easy looks.”
Artis led the Panthers with 17 points. Young scored 12 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. The pair combined for 21 points in the first half but were unable to continue that pace.
That left it up to Pitt's other starters — seniors James Robinson and Sterling Smith and junior Sheldon Jeter — to carry the load. The trio combined for 10 points.
Overall, the Panthers shot 39.1 percent (18 of 46).
“When a team takes away one thing, you've got to attack the other things, guys that are open,” Dixon said. “You've got to make them pay.”
It didn't happen on the perimeter. Robinson shot 0 for 7 and combined with Smith to miss all five of their 3-point attempts.
In the Panthers' ACC losses, Robinson is averaging 4.5 points and shooting 5 of 31 (16.1 percent) from the field and 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range.
“We talked about if (Robinson) was going to beat us, he has to beat us shooting,” Virginia guard London Perrantes said. “Young and Artis were playing pretty well and getting into the lane, so my goal was to keep them out of the lane and just live with James shooting the 3.”
Said Dixon: “Obviously, you don't want your point guard to shoot 0 for 7. We didn't get much from our guards at all.”
Virginia received plenty of help from senior guard Malcolm Brogdon, who scored a game-high 21 points on 6-of-9 shooting.
“He got us off to a great start on the road,” Bennett said.
Brogdon hit his first five attempts, including a pair of 3-pointers. He drove past the defense for a reverse layup and a power dunk.
“They were getting in the lane,” Artis said. “We couldn't stop penetration.”