After securing a 15-point lead in the second half, Pitt men’s basketball looked to be on a clear path to victory over Mount St. Mary’s Tuesday night.
But after giving up that lead, the Panthers needed a last-minute bucket and an overtime period to top their mid-major opponent, narrowly winning 82-78 at the Petersen Events Center.
“We didn’t have that edge tonight,” head coach Kevin Stallings said. “But our guys played well down the stretch, which is encouraging for a young group like this.”
Pitt entered Tuesday night’s game coming off a 12-point victory over crosstown rival Duquesne, but the Panthers (5-4) barely escaped with a victory over The Mount (3-6), committing 17 turnovers and allowing their opponent to shoot 48 percent from 3-point range.
After shooting at least 50 percent from the field in their previous three games, the Panthers once again came out firing. Pitt hopped out to a 7-0 lead in the first few minutes, thanks to five quick points from first-year guard Marcus Carr and a layup from first-year forward Shamiel Stevenson.
But after Mount St. Mary’s began to apply full-court pressure, Pitt quickly conceded that lead. The Mount flustered the Panthers with their relentless man-to-man defense and went on a 9-1 run to take a 9-8 lead. Six minutes into the game, Pitt had already committed four turnovers — half as many as the entire previous game versus Duquesne.
Carr and first-year guard Khameron Davis kept Pitt in the game early, each making their first three shots. With five minutes left in the half, the Panthers clung to a one-point lead, 23-22, and had turned the ball over nine times.
Pitt regained control for the remainder of the half, only turning the ball over once while going on a 9-2 run. First-year forwards Stevenson and Kene Chukwuka scored consecutive buckets to end the half, and the Panthers went into halftime with a 31-24 lead.
Carr and Davis led the Panthers in scoring at the half, with nine and eight points, respectively. Pitt’s two leading scorers on the season, junior Jared Wilson-Frame and senior Ryan Luther, were held in check, going a combined 1-9 from the field while scoring two points. For Mount St. Mary’s, 5-foot-5 senior point guard Junior Robinson was the key contributor, scoring six points and dishing out three assists.
Pitt found its rhythm early in the second half and took its first double-digit lead of the game after three-pointers by Carr and senior guard Jonathan Milligan, going up 43-30.
The Panthers maintained a double-digit lead over the next few minutes, until Davis picked a shooting foul. Stallings strongly disagreed with the call, shouting at the referee until he finally received a technical foul. Robinson made both technical free throws and each of his foul shots to narrow Pitt’s lead to 50-42.
Stallings’ technical appeared to spur his team into action, as the Panthers forced three turnovers and went on a 7-0 run. With 10 minutes left in the game, Pitt led comfortably, 57-42.
Robinson kept The Mount close, knocking down consecutive 3-pointers to narrow the deficit back to nine points. After another 3-pointer by first-year guard Jonah Antonio, The Mount trailed by just five points, 63-58, with six minutes left.
The two teams traded baskets over the next few minutes while Pitt maintained its five-point lead, but the Panthers let Antonio get another open three-point look with three minutes left. The Australian sharpshooter drained the three — his fourth of the game — to narrow Pitt’s lead to two. Robinson scored layups on consecutive possessions to give The Mount the lead, 71-70, with one minute left.
With the game tied 71-71, Carr put the Panthers back on top with a clutch drive and layup. Pitt led 73-71 with 18 seconds left, leaving Mount St. Mary’s with one last possession to tie or win.
First-year forward Bobby Planutis received the ball in the paint and missed a layup, but managed to tip in his own rebound to tie the game at 73-73 with five seconds left. After a missed shot from Carr, the game headed to overtime.
Pitt’s solid defense and consistent free-throw shooting allowed them to squeeze out the OT win. Mount St. Mary’s went 0-6 from the field while Carr and Wilson-Frame scored a combined five points from the free-throw line, giving the Panthers an 80-75 lead with 30 seconds left.
“Coach does a good job making sure we’re prepared for close-game situations,” Carr said. “We rep that sort of thing every day in practice.”
A 3-pointer from Mount St. Mary’s first-year guard Donald Carey closed the deficit to 80-78, but Carr sunk two more free throws to put the game out of hand, giving the Panthers an 82-78 victory.
Carr finished the game as Pitt’s leading scorer with 23 points, while Wilson-Frame added another 15 — all of which came in the second half or overtime. Despite scoring just four points on 2-11 shooting, Luther led the Panthers with a season-high 16 rebounds. Stevenson also chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds. For The Mount, Robinson led all scorers with 24 points.
The Panthers will face off against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Saturday in a renewal of the Backyard Brawl at the Petersen Events Center. Tip-off is at 8 p.m.