PITTSBURGH — Despite an up-and-down battle all afternoon, Jeff Capel’s Pitt Panthers blew a late lead and fell to first-place Clemson by a score of 75-74 on Saturday.
Pitt led by seven with just over four minutes remaining, but Clemson used a 9-0 run powered by PJ Hall and a late Brevin Galloway bucket to regain the lead.
After Hunter Tyson hit both of his free throws with nine seconds to go, Pitt’s Nike Sibande hit a three pointer, but it turned out being too little, too late, as only 0.9 seconds were left on the clock.
Pitt suffered its first conference loss of the season, with the final score 75-74.
Clemson got out to an 18-10 lead to start the game, hitting eight of its first 11 field-goal attempts and bullying Pitt’s thin front court inside.
With big man John Hugley out for his fifth-straight game, Pitt’s Federiko Federiko, Guillermo Diaz-Graham, and Blake Hinson tried to stop the relentless inside effort from the Tigers.
Pitt’s two leading scorers kept the Panthers in it while the Tigers continued to hammer them inside. Jamarius Burton and Blake Hinson combined for the team’s first 22 points, with each heating up from three-point range. Burton went 3 for 5 from deep in the first half, while Hinson added two threes of his own in the frame.
After Federiko and Hinson each picked up their second fouls of the first half, Pitt went to a smaller lineup, relying on Diaz-Graham inside. Nelly Cummings, Greg Elliott, and Jamarius Burton each hit big shots in the last few minutes of the half, going on a 16-7 run and giving Pitt the lead heading into the final frame.
In the second half, Burton opened up the scoring with his signature pull-up mid-range jumper. Throughout a roller coaster of a half, the Panthers stayed in it and built their lead up to as much as nine, but could not close it out.
Burton finished as the team’s leading scorer on the day, scoring 28 to give him his third game of at least 20 points this season. He hit nine of his 16 shots in the game, also grabbing six rebounds to lead the team.
Hinson followed with 14 points and six rebounds in a game in which he battled that foul trouble and fouled out in the last minute.
Clemson used a balanced attack in its effort, as Hunter Tyson, Chase Hunter, Brevin Galloway, and PJ Hall all contributed with double-digit scoring numbers. Tyson led the way, hitting six of his 14 field goals for a team-high 17 points.
Along with those two, Pitt’s Greg Elliott hit three of his six shots for 11 points in the game. Nelly Cummings dished out a team-high four assists as well.
With the loss, Pitt falls to 11-5 (4-1 ACC) on the year. The Tigers claimed first place in the ACC with the victory on Saturday afternoon.
Pitt’s next game comes on Wednesday, Jan. 11 at the historic Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Panthers will take on No. 16 Duke (12-4, 3-2 ACC).