Pitt drops sixth straight to NC State, 77-73

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Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Sophomore guard Au’Diese Toney scored 15 points during Pitt’s 82-67 loss to Florida State on Tuesday.

By Stephen Thompson, Assistant Sports Editor

Pitt men’s basketball has ended a variety of losing streaks this season. They won for the first time ever in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, ended a 22-game road losing streak against ACC opponents and even won consecutive conference games for the first time in more than three years. 

They traveled to Raleigh, North Carolina on Saturday looking to snap another long skid against NC State (18-11 overall, 9-9 ACC), to whom the Panthers (15-15 overall, 6-13 ACC) have lost nine straight contests, but fell agonizingly short in a 77-73 loss. Poor free throw shooting made for long scoring droughts and the Wolfpack capitalized on their opponent’s mediocrity from the charity stripe. 

The Panthers opened the game hot, making six of their first 10 shots from the field and jumping out to leads as large as five in the opening minutes. After an 0-3 start from the field, sophomore guard Xavier Johnson heated up quickly. He scored 10 points without missing a shot the rest of the period. 

Sophomore forward Au’Diese Toney also continued his recent strong offensive play, scoring 10 of his 24 total points in the first 20 minutes and added three rebounds despite being relegated to the bench with a pair of fouls. 

Pitt led the for the entirety of the first half, but their 11 turnovers helped NC State stay within striking distance. The Panthers led 31-30 at halftime after what was one of their more impressive halves of basketball from the current six game skid. 

They stretched their lead to as many as seven, thanks in large part to the offensive awakening of sophomore guard Trey McGowens. After recording only two points on as many shots in the first half, he scored a quick five through the second half’s first four minutes and was an essential distributor to his teammates. 

But over the final 10 minutes of gametime, Pitt was outscored 26-15 by the Wolfpack. NC State was aided by a more than six-minute long Panther field goal drought. Seven points from senior guard CJ Bryce and a dozen from sophomore forward Jericole Hellems lifted NC State down the stretch and the Panthers had no answer. 

Throughout the entire game, Pitt had been able to counter every punch the Wolfpack delivered, but in the final nine minutes of gametime — when Pitt was struggling the most — they were unable to keep themselves afloat. The Panthers missed seven of their final 13 free throws which made their shortcomings from the floor all the more devastating. 

After trailing for a vast majority of the game, NC State took their first lead with 6:52 left to play. By the time Toney was able to end Pitt’s field goal drought with 90 seconds remaining, it was too late. 

Graduate-transfer forward Eric Hamilton added 10 points and nine rebounds in the loss. First-year forward Justin Champagnie joined Hamilton in double-figure scoring with 10 to go along with five boards. 

The Panthers fall further and further down the ACC’s pecking order and are guaranteed only two more games to pick up the pieces of what has become a fractured season of ACC play. They will close the regular season this Wednesday with a road contest against Georgia Tech. Tip-off is scheduled for 9p.m.

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