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Pitt Comeback Falls Short in 59-56 loss to Virginia



PITTSBURGH – Pitt’s dog days aren’t quite over yet.

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Pitt dropped its fourth consecutive contest and seventh of its last nine games in a 59-56 loss to Virginia Saturday at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers, looking to get back on track with four games left on their regular season slate, cut a double-digit second half deficit to two with 52 seconds left to play. That was as close as they’d ever get, however, as their comeback fell short against a Virginia team that had won three straight games entering the affair.

In the loss, the Panthers dropped to 4-16 all-time against Virginia, 15-13 overall this season and 6-11 in ACC play.

With Pitt trailing 58-54,  Xavier Johnson converted an and-1 layup to put the Panthers down two. He missed the free throw, but the Panthers forced Virginia into a shot clock violation on the following possession that gave them the ball back with 21.2 seconds left and a chance to tie it. However, Trey McGowens missed a shot from the right wing. On one final chance, Ryan Murphy failed to get his 3-point attempt off before the final buzzer.

Virginia entered the matchup ranked second nationally in scoring defense (52.6), and it was the same as it ever was. The Cavaliers held Pitt to 22-of-57 from the field and a lowly 3-of-15 on 3-point attempts while forcing 10 turnovers. Meanwhile, they shot 44% from the floor, outrebounded the Panthers, 33-32, and converted eight second-chance points on five offensive boards.

Johnson led Pitt with a team-high 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Au’Diese Toney added 13 points, while Justin Champagnie and Terrell Brown each finished with nine. McGowens struggled with just eight points on 3-of-9 from the field.

Pitt led, 18-17, after the first seven minutes of the first half and trailed 31-29 at halftime. But then came an eight-plus minute scoring drought that allowed Virginia to stretch a 12-2 run to begin the second half. During the run, the Panthers were out of synch with no offensive fluidity, took low-percentage contested shot attempts and struggled with ball movement.

In other words, Virginia did what it does best: defend.

Next up for Pitt is a home matchup with Syracuse on Feb. 26. The Panthers fell to the Orange, 69-61, at the Carrier Dome on Jan. 25.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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