CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Pitt had been here before.
On Friday night, Pitt battled the whole way and had the lead with under a minute to go against Virginia, looking to secure its third win of the year.
After walk-on Onye Ezeakudo hit a go-ahead three-pointer with less than one minute remaining, things looked good for the Panthers, who now led by two and had the momentum in a stunned John Paul Jones Arena.
Then came two good free throws from Jamarius Burton, and Pitt had a four point lead, looking to close out its third win of the year.
But then came Virginia’s top scorer, Jayden Gardner, leading the charge.
The big man hit an and-one lay-up inside over multiple Panthers, drained the free throw, and brought the game within one. Then came more madness.
Pitt’s William Jeffress was in-bounding the ball with just 9.7 seconds left, looking to safely get it in and secure some more points and the victory. Virginia’s defense, as tight as ever, locked up everyone on the court for Pitt, and forced a crucial five-second violation. Cavaliers ball with the chance to win it.
Pitt had been here before.
After three missed jumpers within those remaining ten seconds, Gardner, a 6-foot-6 powerful forward, grabbed yet another offensive rebound for Virginia, and threw up a prayer from the baseline with the game on the line.
Gardner’s fadeaway jumper bounced off the rim three times, and then dropped in with just 0.9 seconds left. The Panthers had one again gotten close, but had fallen once again.
Playing without guard Femi Odukale (ankle), the Panthers looked to Jamarius Burton, Jeffress, and Nate Santos to handle the scoring load. That group started the game hot, going 4 of 6 from beyond the arc in the first few minutes, and the rest of the team continued the hot outside shooting throughout.
Pitt’s leading scorer, John Hugley, struggled mightily in the first half, going 0 for 6 from the floor including 0 for 3 from three-point range. The 6-foot-9 big man finished with a team-high 12 points on 2-for-11 shooting.
As a team, the Panthers shot 39.1% from the floor, as well as 50% from three-point land.
Dan Oladapo once again played a very efficient game for Pitt, going 3 for 3 from the field and scoring six points.
Burton contributed 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting, and also grabbed three rebounds.
Virginia featured a very balanced attack on the night, led by Gardner’s 15 points, as well as Aarman Franklin’s ten, and Kihei Clark’s nine.
Pitt’s next game comes on Thursday, Dec. 9, when it hosts Colgate (3-4). That game will tip off at 8 p.m. and will be televised on ACC Network.