Relive Pitt’s famed final moments

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Thomas Yang | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior Chinaza Ndee reacts after Pitt’s 2019 NCAA Tournament loss.

By Henry Jackson, Staff Writer

The final seconds are the defining moment of a close game. Within those seconds, all bets are off — predetermined plans go out the window, national rankings fail to matter and carefully calculated predictions simply break down. Instead, only the players remain, battling desperately to come out atop their evenly matched opponent.

Pitt sports teams are familiar with such a feeling and are hardly strangers to both the joy and agony inevitable after a close game. Although the outcome may not always be in the Panthers’ favor, the last decade has given Pitt fans their fair share of nail-biters. Here are some of Pitt’s famed moments that came down to the wire.

Basketball: No. 19 UConn 76, No. 3 Pitt 74 (2011 Big East Quarterfinals)

Entering the 2011 Big East Tournament, Pitt found itself in a position to dominate. The Panthers were ranked first in the conference, and most expected their Madison Square Garden matchup against the UConn Huskies to go smoothly.

Unfortunately, former Huskies star guard Kemba Walker had other ideas. Despite leading for the majority of the game, Pitt let UConn hang around and tie the game at 74. The final possession saw Walker deliver an iconic, ankle-breaking crossover, followed by a perfect step-back to deliver a dagger as time expired. No doubt about it, Walker’s loss-clinching shot hurt.

Football: Pitt 43, No. 2 Clemson 42 (2016)

As a reeling Pitt football team entered Death Valley to face the undefeated Clemson Tigers, most expected to see a beatdown. Instead, the Panthers shocked the world by unleashing an offensive onslaught the Tigers simply could not overcome.

The defining moment came on Pitt’s final drive. After forcing a Clemson turnover on downs, the Panthers drove within field goal range to set kicker Chris Blewitt up for a 48-yard field goal attempt. Blewitt nailed the field goal with six seconds remaining. The Tigers’ attempt at a return on the kickoff was snuffed out quickly and the upset was solidified.

Softball: Florida State 5, Pitt 4 (2018 ACC Championship)

While 2018 proved to be a very productive year for Pitt softball, a storybook ending was just never in the cards for the Panthers. Their ACC championship game against the Seminoles saw Pitt commanding a 5-1 lead entering the bottom of the seventh, but a loose run followed by a three-run walkoff homer sunk the Panthers in the most agonizing way imaginable.

Men’s Soccer: Pitt 2, NC State 1 (OT) (2019 ACC Quarterfinals)

One of the most important games in Pitt soccer history did not disappoint in thrills. The Panthers entered their ACC quarterfinals matchup against NC State as a promising team, but a team without any lasting achievements.

Consequently, such a high-stakes game could not be decided in regulation. Instead, forward Edward Kizza tapped in the deciding goal in the 94th minute, bringing the home crowd to its feet and sending Pitt to its first semifinals appearance. 

Volleyball: Cincinnati 3, Pitt 2 (2019 NCAA tournament)

It’s difficult to pinpoint a “final second” moment in an untimed volleyball game, but if ever there was one it came against Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Capping the end to a historic season, the Panthers were upset in an absolute thriller that went down to the wire.

Going into the game with a 29-1 regular season record and a talented cadre of seniors, Pitt was expected to roll over Cincinnati. The Bearcats’ explosive offense proved challenging, however, as Pitt watched an early lead erode throughout the fifth set. The match reached a climax when Pitt tied the fifth set 13-13, but a Bearcat block followed by a game-winning kill ultimately broke the hearts of the Panther faithful.

Although it wasn’t apparent at the time, this loss was the first of a series of unfortunate events for Pitt volleyball. After the Cincinnati loss, the following season saw the Panthers’ record fall off dramatically, and the season after was called midway through due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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