Free throw woes doom Pitt in 76-63 loss at Miami


Knox Coulter | Staff Photographer

Sophomore center Terrell Brown (21) was held to just one point against Miami Tuesday night.

By Nick Carlisano, Staff Writer

Pitt (12-18, 2-15 ACC) lost its 13th consecutive contest, 76-63, at the Watsco Center against the Miami Hurricanes on their senior night. Turnovers, poor free throw shooting and bad rebounding prevented Pitt from coming out on top. Meanwhile, Miami senior guard Anthony Lawrence II did all he could to get his team the win, scoring a career-high 27 points — including his 1,000th career point — to go with 11 rebounds.

While the Panthers kept it close throughout, consistent misses from the foul line prevented them from ever fully erasing the deficit. The team shot a ghastly 12-23 at the stripe, including numerous instances of Panthers missing both free throws. In comparison, Miami was 14-18 on free throws.

The contest got off to an unusual start when Pitt first-year guard Trey McGowens and a Miami opponent got tangled up for a jump ball off the tip. Since neither team had possession a second jump ball ensued, and this time Miami managed to control the ball.

Both the Panthers and the Hurricanes got off to slow starts, with Pitt missing its first four shots and Miami starting out 1-7 from the field. After several minutes of play, Pitt’s only point was a Terrell Brown free throw, and Miami held a 5-1 lead.

Miami sophomore point guard Chris Lykes found senior teammate Zach Johnson for two easy transition plays when Pitt failed to get back on defense, giving the Hurricanes a 9-3 advantage.

For the first 10 minutes of play, neither team had much rhythm. The Panthers and Hurricanes traded missed shots for several possessions in a row, and a break at the 10:47 mark left the score 14-9 in favor of Miami.

While Pitt’s struggles continued, Miami started hitting shots, and a seventh Panther turnover allowed Lykes an easy transition basket that gave the Hurricanes their first double-digit lead at 24-13.

But the Panthers refused to give up. First-year guard Xavier Johnson and junior center Kene Chukwuka combined the first of several times to give Pitt its first points in the paint of the night. Graduate guard Sidy N’Dir found senior guard Jared Wilson-Frame for his second 3-pointer, making the score a closer 26-20. Wilson-Frame was the brightest spot in a rough game for the Panthers, nailing 6-11 3-pointers for all 18 of his points.

Yet another strange play occurred when Miami’s Zach Johnson made a shot he was fouled on, and Wilson-Frame was hit with a flagrant foul. Johnson was granted two free throws instead of the usual one, giving Miami another double-digit lead.

Both teams began to trade baskets, with Xavier Johnson and Chukwuka connecting twice more over the span of several possessions. The Panthers found the ball in their hands as time expired in the first half, and Wilson-Frame made a highly contested shot from behind the arc for his third trey of the night. The shot narrowed Miami’s once double-digit lead to a 36-31 advantage at the break.

The first five minutes of the second half saw a back-and-forth barrage of 3-pointers. Lawrence II hit two 3-pointers to bring his total up to 16 points, while Wilson-Frame and first-year guard Au’Diese Toney each knocked one down. A dunk from senior center Ebuka Izundu helped Miami to a 47-41 lead at a break with just over 15 minutes to go.

Although Xavier again found Chukwuka and McGowens turned a steal into two points, Lawrence refused to let Pitt mount a serious comeback on his senior night. A reverse layup and another three put his team up 52-45 with 12 minutes left.

Xavier missed two free throws out of the break, foreshadowing the Panthers’ free-throw shooting woes down the stretch. But as they have all season, the Panthers continued to fight. Redshirt junior guard Malik Ellison hit a 3-pointer and Pitt’s defense began to lock in, forcing a shot clock violation. Wilson-Frame made his fourth triple of the night, followed by a Miami turnover. The Hurricanes were forced to call a timeout at the 8:54 mark.

After the break, N’Dir hit a shot to extend Pitt’s run to 8-0. Following Pitt’s run, the refs suddenly started to rely on their whistles, and both teams had opportunities at the free throw line. Miami took advantage of them, but Pitt didn’t. N’Dir and Toney both converted just one of their two attempts over a several-minute span, and Wilson-Frame missed both of his foul shots. Miami entered a media timeout with 3:35 remaining up 65-60.

Izundu scored right out of the break to extend Miami’s lead to seven. A deep Miami 3-pointer followed by another 0-2 trip to the line for Xavier Johnson put the game away for good. Several meaningless possessions later the final buzzer sounded, with the Hurricanes notching a 13-point victory on senior night.

Head coach Jeff Capel will look to end the regular season on a high note at the Petersen Events Center against a similarly struggling Notre Dame team this Saturday at noon. After that, the Panthers will get the opportunity to make some noise and pull off an upset or two in the ACC tournament next week.

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