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Senior moment: Young’s 22 not enough as Pitt loses second straight game

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Senior moment: Young’s 22 not enough as Pitt loses second straight game

By Jeremy Tepper / Staff Writer

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In Pitt’s final home game of the year, the team honored three seniors before facing off against the Miami Hurricanes. It was a sophomore, however, who spearheaded Pitt’s offense, as Michael Young collected 22 points off of 9-13 shooting.

Young’s effort couldn’t carry the team, as the Hurricanes defeated the Panthers 67-63, improving to 19-11 and dropping Pitt to 19-12, all but eliminating the host from making the NCAA Tournament. Now, Pitt will likely need a deep ACC Tournament run to keep its hopes alive.

“[It’s] very tough,” Young said. “We knew we had to win these last two games to make the tournament and give us our best chance, and we let another one go.”

A sophomore also led Miami’s scoring, as guard Davon Reed collected 19 points off of 7-of-8 shooting.

Miami was both the first and last to strike, going on a 7-0 run in the first three minutes of the game. Reed scored five of those points, hitting a 3-point shot and converting a layup.

Pitt struck back, starting with a 3-pointer by junior guard James Robinson, assisted by sophomore forward Jamel Artis.

After Pitt took a 33-29 halftime lead, spurred by Young’s eight first-half points, Miami eventually regained the lead. Sophomore guard Manu Lecomte, who started in place of injured senior point guard Angel Rodriguez, knocked down a corner three.

Miami continued its attack in the form of a jumper by the team’s leading scorer, junior guard Sheldon McClellan, who finished with 20 points in the game. McClellan was questionable to play due to a groin injury.

McClellan said his groin felt fine during pregame shootaround, though it quickly tightened up after. With the help of Miami’s trainer, some stretching and a heat pad, McClellan made the decision to play through the injury.

“I wasn’t going to play at first, but I told my team I had to play through it because of the situation we’re in,” McClellan said.

Giving up tip ins and offensive rebounds hurt the Panthers, as Miami collected 13 offensive boards and outrebounded Pitt 33-30. Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon mainly pointed to this rebounding for his team’s defeat.

“We’ve got to win the rebounding, we didn’t. We’ve got to defend better, get more free throws than our opponents,” Dixon said.

Losing on the boards hurt even more for Dixon, knowing the lineup Miami used.

“You have four guards out there and you’re getting beat on the glass. That can’t happen,” he said.

For the remainder of the game, Pitt and Miami went back and forth, as Young and sophomore forward Sheldon Jeter did their part to tie the game twice after McClellan’s jumper. But after Jeter made a layup to tie the score at 51, Pitt went in a scoring drought of two and half minutes, which proved costly later on.

With just four made free throws and a tip in from junior center Tonye Jekiri, the Hurricanes were up 57-53 with 4:06 remaining. Free throws were a big boon to Miami, as they shot 15 of 18 from the line. Pitt shot 7 of 8.

It wasn’t a coincidence that Miami had success getting to the hoop and, evidently, getting to the foul line. In practices leading up to the game, Miami’s coach Jim Larranaga told his players to focus on limiting dribble moves to get to the hoop. The better alternatives, he stressed, are straight line drives.

“We showed them a highlight tape of [Julius Erving] and Kevin Durant. And I asked them how many dribbles it took for them to score at the rim, and it was one,” Larranaga said. “The move is speed and quickness by the guy who’s guarding. You’re faster moving forward then he is moving sideways.”

After strong play early on, Pitt found itself trailing late, similar to its previous game against Wake Forest.

“This is our second game [in a row] we played good on both ends of the court for the majority of the game and at the end of the game kind of let up,” senior guard Cameron Wright said.

Despite Pitt pulling the score within one after an Artis three, McClellan answered with a 3-point shot of his own.

Pitt battled back once more, as Jeter hit a corner three to bring the score to 64-61. After Jeter stole the ball off an inbound pass, Artis had a chance to tie it with an open three. The shot, though, would not fall, and Pitt lost the game.

The Panthers wrap up their regular season on Saturday at Florida State, before traveling to Greensboro, N.C., for the ACC Tournament. Though the loss hurts, Wright said he and his teammates need to quickly get focused on their next game.

“We’re not hanging our heads,” Wright said. “It’s gonna be tough to sleep tonight, but once midnight comes we got to focus on Florida State.”

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Senior moment: Young’s 22 not enough as Pitt loses second straight game