NEW YORK — On Thursday night in the Legends Classic, a second-half comeback led by Pitt’s stars came up short as the Panthers could not close out VCU, losing 71-67.
Clinging onto a one-point Panther lead with two minutes remaining, Pitt’s Greg Elliott threw a 3/4 court inbounds pass that was intercepted by VCU. After Pitt fouled on the next possession, VCU’s Brandon Johns hit two free throws to regain the lead, and the Rams never looked back.
Johns finished with a team-high 18 points in the win, hitting all five of his second-half free throws to take down Pitt. Guard Zeb Jackson followed with 16 points of his own in the win for the Rams.
After a sluggish first-half effort by both teams, Pitt found itself trailing by a game-high eight points just forty seconds into the second frame. However, led by a resurgent Blake Hinson and Nelly Cummings, the Panthers found some hope in Brooklyn.
Hinson and Cummings, who combined for just four points in the first half, led Pitt on a 17-3 run, bringing the Panthers in front. Now, Pitt was forced to protect a tight lead for the first time this season. The Panthers kept things close throughout, but could not come up with a big shot to put VCU away. Pitt went more than three minutes without a field goal in the final five minutes of the game, allowing VCU to take a late 9-0 run to the win.
Hinson finished with a team-high 18 points, while Cummings followed with 11 points in the loss. While those two attracted more attention as the second frame went on, Pitt’s Jamarius Burton also caught fire from the mid-range, hitting five of his seven second half shots to finish with 14 points on the night.
Pitt freshmen Jorge and Guillermo Diaz-Graham both logged career-highs in points and rebounds. Jorge finished with ten points and five rebounds, while Guillermo added seven and seven.
Pitt big man John Hugley did not play due to a knee injury. Hugley injured his knee before the season and missed Pitt’s first two games of the year. He made his season debut against Michigan on Wednesday in game one in Brooklyn, but did not dress for this game.
Pitt (1-3) will return to the Steel City for its next game on Sunday, Nov. 20 against Alabama State (0-4). That contest will tip off at 2 p.m.