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Pitt Upset Bid Falls Short, Loses 86-80 to N.C. State

Pitt guard Jared Wilson-Frame is defended by N.C. State's Torin Dorn on Jan. 12, 2019 at PNC Arena. -- MITCHELL NORTHAM / Pittsburgh Sports Now

Pitt Upset Bid Falls Short, Loses 86-80 to N.C. State

RALEIGH, N.C. — Despite having four players score in double digits and holding a second-half lead for more than 10 minutes, Pitt fell short of upsetting an N.C. State team that played the majority of the contest without two starters.

The No. 15 Wolfpack used a 16-4 run over about three minutes near the end of the second half to put a comfortable cushion between themselves as the Panthers. Kevin Keatts’ side rolled to an 86-80 victory over Pitt at PNC Arena in front of an announced crowd of 17,695.

In an off-the-bench effort, sophomore DJ Funderburk sparked the Wolfpack (14-2; 2-1 ACC) with 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. For Pitt (11-5; 1-2 ACC), Xavier Johnson led all scorers with 25 points.

It seemed that Pitt would have a chance at an upset early on, when an N.C. State starter was tossed from the game just two minutes in. N.C. State’s Wyatt Walker got tangled up with Johnson under the basket, and a replay showed Walker, a graduate transfer from Samford, grabbing Johnson’s leg to intentionally trip him. After a review, the referees handed the 6-foot-9 forward, who averages 6.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per-game, a Flagrant Two foul.

But the ejection seemed to ignite the Wolfpack. After Johnson knocked down a trio of free throws, N.C. State went on a 9-2 run. It was halted by a fast break layup from Pitt’s Au’Diese Toney.

About 10 minutes after Walker’s ejection, with N.C. State leading 25-19, another Wolfpack starter had to leave the court. After trying to block a Pitt layup, junior guard Markell Johnson fell to the hardwood and grabbed his back. He was helped off the court, taken to N.C. State’s locker room and did not return to the game.

Pitt began to close the gap between it and N.C. State near the end of the first half. At the 1:53 mark, Trey McGowens connected on a lay-up that gave Pitt its first lead of the day. The Wolfpack retook the advantage though, and lead, 41-40 at halftime.

Pitt grabbed its biggest lead of the contest — five points — after Johnson threw down a dunk at the 9:53 mark of the second half. Johnson, a freshman and Pitt’s leading scorer this season, has scored in double-digits in every game of his collegiate career so far.

What kept Pitt in the game in the first half was its success at the free-throw line, where they knocked down 18 of 21 attempts. The Panthers couldn’t get to the charity stripe nearly as often in the second half, taking just seven trips there.

N.C. State captured an 11-point lead with 2:26 to play and coasted to a win, holding off Pitt’s comeback attempt.

Jeff Capel’s Panthers have a short turnaround after the defeat. On Monday at 7 p.m., Pitt will host Florida State for a game televised on ESPNU.

Notes

  • Pitt lost the rebounding battle, 34-44.
  • This was the seventh straight time Pitt has lost to N.C. State.
  • Pitt is now 9-2 on the season when scoring 70 points or more.
  • This was Pitt’s 13th straight ACC road loss. The Panthers have not won on the road since beating Boston College on Feb. 8, 2017.
  • The Panthers are 0-3 against AP-ranked opponents this season, also losing to North Carolina and Iowa.
  • McGowens fouled out of the game with 10 seconds to play. He finished with seven points, seven assists and five rebounds.
  • Au’Diese Toney also fouled out, with seven seconds left. He tallied 17 points and six rebounds on the night.
  • After missing four games with a right leg injury, Pit senior guard Sidy N’Dir returned to the court. He finished with one steal and two fouls in just a minute of playing time.

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