WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — There were moments Tuesday night where a Pitt win seemed not only possible, but likely.
The Panthers led the Wake Forest Demon Deacons with under a minute to play in the fourth quarter and they led in overtime. The extra five minutes of clawing and scrapping didn’t make a difference.
This was a battle of two Atlantic Coast Conference teams looking to snap losing streaks of five games. For Pitt, the skid continues to fester. Wake Forest gets a fresh start, as the Demon Deacons bested the Panthers in an ugly 78-76 overtime victory in a half-empty Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
For Pitt, not only has its 2019 losing streak been extended, but so has its road woes. It’s been nearly two years since the Panthers won a true road game, last beating Boston College on Feb. 8, 2017. The loss against Wake Forest marked the 20th consecutive road defeat for the Panthers
Leading the charge for the Demon Deacons (9-13; 2-8 ACC) was freshman Jaylen Hoard, who tallied 19 points, 17 rebounds and four assists.
Pitt (12-11; 2-8 ACC) was led by Xavier Johnson’s 23 points and nine assists. Jared Wilson-Frame added 17 points, three assists and three rebounds.
The Panthers started the game with their foot pressed firmly on the gas pedal. They connected on their first three field goal attempts to take an 8-0 lead. But the Demon Deacons slowly chipped at the lead and eventually tied the game up. At halftime, Pitt held a narrow two-point edge, thanks to a lay-up Johnson hit at the buzzer.
Wake took its first lead of the game early in the second half when Childress hit a three-pointer. The Demon Deacons were able get back in the game by rebounding and making free throws. Wake out-rebounded Pitt 48-37 and out-shot Pitt at the charity stripe 15-10.
After falling behind by as many as eight points, Pitt regained the lead with 44 seconds to play after Johnson hit a pair of three-pointers. But then, in a lapse of concentration on defense, the Panthers allowed Hoard to get to the rim just before the buzzer to tip in a missed three-pointer, tying the game and sending it to an extra period.
In overtime, Pitt had a three-point lead, but that disappeared with a missed three-pointer, a missed lay-up and a turnover. With 6.8 seconds left, Pitt trailed by three points and Johnson was fouled. He made the first free throw, trimming the lead to two points, but missed the second. Wake Forest recovered the lose ball as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
Pitt’s schedule doesn’t get any easier. On Saturday, they’ll host N.C. State for a 2 p.m. tip.