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March Sadness: Panthers fall to NC State in first ACC tournament game

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March Sadness: Panthers fall to NC State in first ACC tournament game

By Dan Sostek / Assistant Sports Editor

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GREENSBORO, NC- The Pitt men’s basketball team was outmatched Wednesday evening in the second round of the ACC tournament, as the North Carolina State Wolfpack devoured the Panthers in Greensboro by a final score of 81-70.

NC State was led by sophomore guard Anthony “Cat” Barber, who tallied a career-high 34 points on the evening in front of a raucous sea of red shirts. The Panthers simply had no answer for the speedy guard.

“[Barber] made plays. He made shots,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said following the game. “You know, it was just his night.”

On the night. the Wolfpack scored the first points of the game following winning the opening tip, as Lennard Freeman nailed a close-range shot to open up the contest.

While sophomore forward Jamel Artis was able to answer for the Panthers on their first possession, evening up the score at 2-2, the rest of the first half was dominated by NC State and Barber.

Following a jumper by Pitt senior guard Cameron Wright with 14:10 remaining in the half that tied the game at 8-8, Barber went on a tear, scoring the game’s next eight points to give the Wolfpack an eight point lead.

“He’s aggressive and hit a few shots early on, so he caught a rhythm,” Wright said when asked about Barber’s performance. “He did a great job getting to the basket tonight.”

NC State extended their lead to double digits for the first time of the game following seven straight points from redshirt junior guard Trevor Lacey, giving his team a 30-19 advantage.

Pitt would fall behind even further as Barber continued to surge from beyond the arc, scoring the final ten points of the half for the Wolfpack, giving him 20 in the period. His team would lead 37-23 heading into intermission.

The Panthers opened up the second half with some better success from beyond the arc, as Sheldon Jeter and Jamel Artis drained Pitt’s first two threes of the game.

But the Wolfpack responded, and a dunk by Ralston Turner extended the NC State lead  to 44-32 with 16:24 left in the game.

Pitt was able to minimize the Wolfpack advantage to seven following sophomore center Michael Young’s second three of the evening, as the long distance shot made the score 50-43 with 11:30 left.

That would be the closest the Panthers would get to making a comeback, as Barber and Lacey scored 20 of their team’s final thirty points, and North Carolina State cruised to victory.

“The guys kept battling,” Dixon said of his team. “We got down. We withstood their 3-point barrage. We kept trying to change some things up.We got it closer, but just didn’t have enough in us.”

Barber led all scorers with 34, while also pitching in five assists and three rebounds. Lacey added  21 points, five assists and four boards on the night as well.

“Teammates and coaches were telling me to be me, and they need me down the stretch,” Barber said. “So today I just came out with a high sense of urgency and confidence that I’m going to put the team on my back, and that’s what I did.”

Pitt was led by Wright, who tallied 19 points, four rebounds and two steals, while Young, Artis and sophomore guard Chris Jones all reached double-figures.

Wright said he hopes the younger players on the roster don’t simply let this loss go.

“I just need to try to talk to the guys,” Wright said. “[Tell them to] keep their heads up, and remember this feeling so they never feel it again.”

With the loss, the Panthers’ hopes for an NCAA tournament berth are all but dashed, with Pitt’s best case scenario now being an NIT bid.

“We’re used to being in the NCAA tournament. We play for that,” Dixon said. “But we knew what our challenges were, and we didn’t get it done.”

The team will find out what their postseason plans will entail on Sunday evening.

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March Sadness: Panthers fall to NC State in first ACC tournament game