For the second straight week, the Pitt men’s basketball team found itself facing an elite opponent on the road. And, much like last Wednesday against No. 10 Louisville, Pitt couldn’t play the role of spoiler in Charlottesville.
On the road Monday night against the No. 2 team in the nation, the Panthers struggled to overcome a ferocious Virginia defense as well as some self-inflicted wounds at the free throw line in their 61-49 loss to the Cavaliers.
Pitt opened the game strong against the top-scoring defense in the country, grabbing a 4-0 lead in the first two minutes following a jumper by sophomore forward Jamel Artis and a driving layup by senior guard Cameron Wright.
It was after these baskets that the relentless defense of the Cavaliers arrived on the scene. Virginia would erase the only deficit it faced all evening, going on an 18-4 run that included a six-minute scoreless stretch for the visiting Panthers.
A 3-point make by Virginia junior guard Malcolm Brogdon with 1:45 left in the first half could have been a back-breaker for Pitt, putting Virginia up by 13 late in the period.
But Artis was able to answer from beyond the arc for the Panthers with 1:15 remaining, limiting the Cavalier lead to 10 heading into intermission.
One game after hitting six 3-pointers and shooting 61.3 percent from the field in the first half, Pitt sputtered offensively in the first half in Charlottesville, converting just one of five long-distance shots and posting an abysmal 35.3 percent field goal percentage in the first period.
Thanks to an early boost by sophomore forward Sheldon Jeter, the Pitt offense kicked into a higher gear in the second half.
Jeter scored the first seven points of the period for the Panthers, trimming Virginia’s lead to just five with 16:33 remaining in the contest.
But the Panthers squandered key opportunities at the charity stripe to cut further into the Cavaliers’ advantage.
Artis, senior forward Derrick Randall and sophomore guard Josh Newkirk missed the Panthers’ first five free throw attempts of the half.
Despite the missed free throws, Pitt managed to remain toe to toe with the highly ranked Cavs, cutting Virginia’s lead to just three points following Wright converting one of two free throws with 7:54 remaining.
That would be the closest the Panthers would get to evening up the score, though, as Brogdon was able to create some separation for UVA, scoring eight of his team’s final 15 points, including a posterizing dunk over Jeter with 2:59 remaining to extend the Cavaliers’ lead to double digits.
Artis led all scorers with 20 points on 6-11 shooting, tacking on eight rebounds as well. Jeter was the only other Pitt player in double figures, tallying 10 points to go along with six boards.
One game after totalling a season-high 30 assists, the Panthers struggled with ball movement, dishing out a miniscule 11 assists while turning the ball over 12 times.
While Virginia’s assist total was identical to Pitt’s on Monday night, they were able to play with stronger ball security, only turning the ball over seven times.
Brogdon led the Cavaliers with 18 points while securing four rebounds and notching two steals and two assists.
The Panthers will finish up their two-game road stand this weekend, as they travel north to face the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Pitt was victorious in their previous meeting this season, winning by a score of 83-77 at the Petersen Events Center.
Tip-off is scheduled for noon.