In a game where neither team led by more than seven points, the Pitt men’s basketball team battled fellow ACC bottom-dweller Wake Forest Wednesday but couldn’t convert enough opportunities down the stretch and suffered its 16th straight loss, 63-57.
A home game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (11-17 overall, 4-12 ACC) seemed to be the Panthers’ (8-21 overall, 0-16 ACC) best opportunity left in the season to get a victory. But Pitt continued its poor shooting, making just 37 percent of its field goals and routinely experienced long lapses between baskets.
“I thought the difference in the game was they played like they had some experience,” head coach Kevin Stallings said. “We didn’t play with enough discipline to win this game.”
Both teams struggled to make baskets in the game’s opening minutes. Pitt led 14-10 after 10 minutes of action, thanks in large part to Wake Forest shooting 5-for-17 from the field over that span.
The Panthers found themselves in a rut with three minutes left in the half after their opponent mounted a 6-0 run and took a 25-20 lead. But 3-pointers from junior forward Jared Wilson-Frame and first-year guard Parker Stewart on consecutive possessions put an end to the scoring drought and gave Pitt a 28-27 lead at halftime.
The first-half scoring effort for the Panthers was a balanced one — Stewart led the team in points with six at the break, while Wilson-Frame and first-year guard Marcus Carr chipped in five each. No player on either team recorded double-digit points — Wake Forest’s 7-foot-1-inch junior Doral Moore came closest with nine.
The Panthers started the second half with a disastrous five-minute scoring drought while their opponent scored seven points to take a 34-28 lead. First-year forward Shamiel Stevenson finally got Pitt back on track with a 3-pointer, and redshirt senior guard Jonathan Milligan followed suit with a three of his own on the ensuing possession to tie the game at 34.
The two teams traded baskets over the next few possessions with Stewart cutting Pitt’s deficit to two points, 44-42, on a 3-pointer with eight minutes left in the game.
The Panthers once again hit a wall on offense, making just one of their next 10 field goals and trailing 51-44 with 3:43 remaining.
But Pitt kept the game within reach, and the Panthers once again knocked down timely 3-pointers — this time from Wilson-Frame and first-year center Terrell Brown — which cut the deficit back down to just three points, 57-54, with one minute left to play.
Wake Forest knocked down their free throws when Pitt began to foul, giving them a 61-57 lead with 15 seconds left — the Panthers absolutely needed a basket to keep the game alive.
Wilson-Frame received an inbound pass and beat the opposing defense down the court for what should have been an easy basket. But instead of laying it in, Wilson-Frame went for a dunk — and missed.
The ball rattled out, sucking the air right out of the Petersen Events Center crowd as the fans promptly began to exit the stadium.
Wake Forest knocked down its last two free throws leading to a final score of 63-57.
Wilson-Frame and Carr finished as Pitt’s leading scorers with 11 points each, shooting a combined 8-for-23 from the field.
The path to an ACC victory will become more difficult in the men’s team’s next game — a home matchup against No. 1 Virginia Saturday at 4 p.m.
“I want the young guys to continue to grow and learn,” Milligan said of Pitt’s opportunity to pull off an upset Saturday. “And if we get a win out of that, that’ll be a blessing.”