Panthers fall to Hurricanes at the buzzer, finish fifth in the ACC


AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

Miami forward Norchad Omier (15) passes the ball past Pittsburgh center Federiko Federiko during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Coral Gables, Fla.

By Jermaine Sykes, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt men’s basketball’s underdog run to ACC regular-season title contenders ended in chaotic fashion on Saturday.

The Panthers (21-10, 14-6 ACC) fell on the road to the Miami Hurricanes (24-6, 15-5 ACC) 78-76, who they previously defeated at home on Jan. 28

Junior forward Blake Hinson led all scorers with 24 points and hit some big shots down the stretch, but it wasn’t enough. Paired with the loss to Notre Dame on Wednesday, the Panthers fell from No. 1 in the ACC to No. 5.

Hinson started off hot from behind the arc, with two quick three-pointers. The first Hinson three opened the game, giving the Panthers a 3-0 lead. The second was a shot from the logo that gave the Panthers their second lead of the game at the 13:11 mark of the first half.

Hinson, senior guard Nike Sibande and graduate student guard Jamarius Burton carried the weight offensively for the Panthers, scoring 20 of the team’s first 25 points. The Hurricanes stayed in the game with 18 points in the paint, but the Panthers retained a 25-20 lead.

The Hurricanes then sparked off a 13-2 run, capped off with two consecutive three-pointers from sophomore guard Wooga Poplar. Poplar would knock down all three three-pointers for the Hurricanes in the first half. 

Sophomore forward Norchad Omier led the way for the Hurricanes in the first half with 11 points and seven rebounds. The Hurricanes outrebounded the Panthers 22 to nine, scoring 16 second-chance points to the Panthers’ two. This is a stark contrast from their first matchup, where the Panthers dominated the boards. 

Still, the Panthers’ nine points off of turnovers kept them hanging in the game, as they entered the locker room trailing 38-42 at halftime.

The second half started out similar to the first half, with the Hurricanes dominating the interior. Miami grabbed three offensive rebounds in the first 4:20 of the first half. The strength inside gifted the Hurricanes their largest lead of the night at 54-46.

Despite the success from the Hurricanes, their star couldn’t find his usual success. Junior guard Isaiah Wong — who leads the Hurricanes in points and assists — struggled mightily from the field and failed to make a single field goal in the first half and to start the second.

Hinson knocked down a three to cut the Hurricanes’ lead to four, but Wong’s first basket of the game and a three minute scoring drought from the Panthers brought the Hurricanes’ lead back to eight.

Hinson once again knocked down a logo three-pointer to cut the Hurricanes’ lead to three. But Poplar quickly answered, lighting up the Hurricane crowd with a three-pointer to bring Miami’s lead back to six. 

With 3:48 left, the Hurricanes led 71-65. Hinson hit his fifth three-pointer of the game, cutting the Hurricane lead to three. And like deja vu, Poplar answered with a three-pointer of his own. 

Miami maintained its lead, even extending it to seven with just a minute to play. Like their last matchup, the Panthers played good defense and Hinson hit big shots, cutting the Hurricane lead to two with 13.2 seconds left. A missed free throw from Omier gave the Panthers one shot at the buzzer. Hinson came up just short and the Panthers fell to the Hurricanes 78-76. 

There’s probably a sour taste in the Panthers’ mouths after having sole possession of the ACC regular season championship a week ago. Now they fall to the No. 5 seed in the ACC tournament and will play the winner of the No. 12 and No. 13 matchup on Tuesday.

The Panthers will look to rebound in the second round of the ACC tournament on Wednesday night in Greensboro, North Carolina.