It’s those last-minute moments, when the game is close and time is expiring, that make a game exciting for fans to watch. Whether it’s basketball, soccer or football, buzzer-beating scores can turn a game around.
Pitt has played in many incredible last-minute games over the years, but there are three that stand out for keeping Panther fans invested in the team.
Two of these moments come from the 2007-08 basketball season. The first was Pitt’s win over Duke 10 years ago — Dec. 20, 2007 — at Madison Square Garden in the Aeropostale Classic.
Unlike now, Pitt was a top-tier team — ranked No. 11 in the country — while Duke was carrying out its traditional dominance, ranked at No. 6. The game moved back-and-forth between the halves, with Duke taking a 12-point lead in the first and Pitt getting even in the second.
The two teams stayed on each other until the very end, sending the game into overtime.
With 16 seconds to go in the extra period, Pitt was down by two and needed a big play. Junior guard Levance Fields had possession of the ball and was looking to get it to junior forward Sam Young off a screen. Realizing he couldn’t get the ball to Young, he decided to drive to the hoop, but made space before the Duke defender.
This gave Fields the opportunity to hit a 3-pointer to give Pitt the lead with six seconds to go. Duke drove down the court, but missed two shots, handing the game to Pitt. This is one of the biggest games — and wins — in program history, and was one of the finest moments in Fields’ career, in which he became one of the most prominent point guards in Pitt history.
“I knew our guys would compete and battle when it came down to it,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “I saw that I knew tonight.”
Another standout moment during that season was the Backyard Brawl against rival West Virginia Feb. 7, 2008.
In a close matchup against the Mountaineers, the No. 21 Panthers were looking to beat their nemesis to the south and get back up the polls after losing Levance Fields to a broken foot.
The game was close throughout, because of lackluster shooting by both teams — WVU at 35.8 percent and Pitt not far ahead at 40 percent. The Panthers also shot poorly from 3-point range — 5-15 — while the Mountaineers shot an abysmal 7-17 from the foul line.
With only 9.5 seconds remaining in the game, Pitt was down 54-52. After a timeout and a ball out of bounds in the WVU half, senior guard Ronald Ramon was given the chance to change the game.
Looking to give the ball away, he passed it to senior guard Keith Benjamin. After Benjamin got picked up by two Mountaineers, he passed it to the corner, back to Ramon, who made a smooth 3-pointer to win it at the buzzer for the Panthers. There’s nothing better for a Pitt fan than seeing WVU lose, especially at the last-second in the Petersen Events Center.
“We tried to get an open guy,” Ramon said. “It feels good.”
Almost every Pitt fan can agree the best last-minute moment is Pitt football’s 43-42 win against No. 2 Clemson last season in Death Valley.
Pitt was 5-4 and entered the game off of two back-to-back losses — a close fall to Virginia Tech and a terrible 51-28 defeat against Miami. Clemson was the No. 2 team in the nation, undefeated and on its way to another playoff appearance and national championship.
In a game that went back and forth from the opening kick to the final snap of the ball, Pitt and Clemson both racked yards on offense, with Clemson’s star junior quarterback Deshaun Watson throwing for 580 yards in the game. Pitt redshirt senior quarterback Nathan Peterman also had an impressive game, racking up 380 passing yards and five touchdowns.
Clemson, up 42-40, had the ball with about a minute to play and had a chance to finally put Pitt away. On a fourth-and-1 for the Tigers, they tried to run the ball and let time expire, but Pitt senior linebacker Matt Galambos stopped the runner short and Pitt got the ball with 58 seconds remaining.
As the offense moved within field goal range, senior kicker Chris Blewitt had the chance to clinch the game for the Panthers. Blewitt had already missed an extra point and had a field goal blocked earlier in the game, so there was an enormous amount of pressure to get this one through.
Blewitt did just that, hitting a 48-yard field goal with six seconds left to give the Panthers the victory over the Tigers.
“We went into the week [saying] we were going to shock the world,” head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Our kids believed.”
The win against Clemson gave Pitt its second win against a No. 2 team since WVU in 2007, and helped them to win out the rest of the regular season, giving head coach Pat Narduzzi his second 8-4 season in two years.