Miami's 67-63 victory further damages Pitt's NCAA Tourney hopes
It was another white-knuckle struggle for the Pitt men's basketball team Wednesday night.
The Panthers, who have played more than their share of close games, suffered a 67-63 loss against Miami before an announced crowd of 10,549 at Petersen Events Center.
The Panthers have lost two consecutive games by a total of seven points.
“Two times in a row. Disappointing losses,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, referring to Sunday's road loss against Wake Forest and a setback in the final regular-season home game. “A home loss can't happen.”
“We let another one get away,” said Pitt sophomore Michael Young, who scored a game-high 22 points.
The loss potentially was devastating for the Panthers, who are 19-12 and 8-9 in the ACC with one regular-season game to play: Saturday at Florida State.
Sheldon McClellan led Miami (19-11, 9-8) with 20 points. Teammate Davon Reed added 19 points.
Miami outscored Pitt, 38-30, in the second half. The Hurricanes shot 13 for 15 from the free-throw line after halftime.
Pitt lost despite outshooting Miami from the field (46.3 percent to 42.6 percent). The Hurricanes, made eight more free throws.
“They were able to get to the free-throw line. They were just driving on us,” said Pitt senior Cameron Wright, who had 11 points and five assists. “And they made their free throws.”
Wednesday's game was important for Pitt and Miami, who are considered bubble teams for the NCAA Tournament. Both teams also need to win some games at next week's ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C.
Pitt never was able to gain control.
The Panthers led 33-29 at halftime behind Young's 16 points.
Pitt took a 47-43 lead, but Miami scored two quick baskets for the tie.
Back and forth it went. Miami led 51-49, but Young fed Sheldon Jeter with a slick pass between defenders for a layup.
A four-point deficit in a low-scoring game like this one put added pressure on the Panthers to keep pace.
Young, who recorded his third consecutive 20-point game, answered with a jumper.
Miami made it 53-51 and added two free throws for a 57-53 lead.
Just when it was beginning to look bleak for the Panthers, sophomore Jamel Artis (14 points) made a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to one. McClellan answered with a 3-pointer to push the lead to 60-56.
Young scored inside to make it 60-58, but McClellan scored again with 1:18 to play.
The Panthers had a chance to tie after coming up with a loose ball, but Artis' 3-point attempt missed long.
Deandre Burnett hit both of his free throws to make it 66-61. Following a James Robinson layup, McClellan hit 1 of 2 free throws to account for the final score.
“Both teams are trying to get to the (NCAA) Tournament. Both teams came out with intensity,” Young said. “We knew we had to win our last two games. This is a tough one to swallow.”