Men’s basketball stumbles at Virginia Tech


Cat Piper

James Robinson (0) jumps for the ball at Cassell Coliseum on March 2, 2016 (Courtesy of Cat Piper / Collegiate Times).

The Pitt men’s basketball team was riding high Sunday, fresh off a victory over a ranked Duke team and looking like a comfortable lock for an NCAA Tournament game berth.
But Wednesday night, it may have undone all of its goodwill earned against the Blue Devils.
With only two players reaching double figures, the Panthers (20-9, 9-8) fell to the unranked Virginia Tech Hokies 65-61 (17-13, 9-8) in Blacksburg, Virginia.
After losing the opening tip, Virginia Tech got on the board first, as Zach LeDay followed up a missed shot for a lay-in, giving the Hokies a 2-0 lead.

Pitt’s Michael Young responded with a 3-point play, and senior James Robinson connected on a shot from beyond the arc to give Pitt a 6-2 lead. Jamel Artis would score on the next possession, increasing the lead to 8-2.
But Virginia Tech fought back, scoring five straight to narrow the deficit to 8-7 after a Bibbs free throw.
The Panthers’ lead grew to seven, thanks to makes by Michael Young, Cameron Johnson and Sheldon Jeter.
Yet thanks to six straight empty possessions for Pitt, including some wide-open misses from beyond the arc by Chris Jones and Cameron Johnson, Virginia Tech once again edged closer to Pitt, trailing 19-18 heading into the final media timeout.
After the timeout, the Hokies took their first lead since 2-0, when Devin Wilson cut behind Pitt’s defense and laid it in to give Virginia Tech a 21-20 advantage.
The Hokie lead grew to three after a pair of LeDay free throws, but the Panthers scored five straight on a three by Johnson and a layup by Ryan Luther, regaining a lead.
Seth Allen connected from well beyond the three point line with just about three seconds left in the half, giving Virginia Tech a one-point advantage heading into intermission.
LeDay led all scorers at halftime with 10 points and four rebounds, while Michael Young led the Panthers with seven points.
Pitt retook the lead early in the second half, as Artis found Chris Jones cutting backdoor for an easy layup.
Virginia Tech and the Panthers traded leads throughout the opening minutes, but with the score knotted at 32, Bibbs finally connected on a 3-pointer, giving the Hokies a three-point advantage heading into the first media timeout.
That lead grew to seven after Seth Allen lobbed an alley-oop to LeDay, with the score sitting at 37-32 Virginia Tech. But the referees called a flagrant foul on the Hokies after Allen hit Robinson in the face, giving the Panthers two shots and the ball.
Robinson would convert both free throws, but the Panthers were unable to score, and Virginia Tech scored nine straight points, punctuated by a deep three by Devin Wilson, to grow Pitt’s deficit to a game-high 12 points.
Virginia Tech’s lead grew to 13, and remained in double figures throughout, despite a three by Michael Young with 6:07 left that narrowed the score to 58-48.
With 2:44 left, Pitt finally dented the advantage to single digits, as Artis converted two foul shots to leave the score at 64-56.
Thanks to some late turnovers by Virginia Tech, Pitt narrowed the gap to just three. It had an opportunity to tie the game, as James Robinson had an open look at a three with 23 seconds left, but it rattled out.

After a couple fouls, the Hokies were able to run the clock out.
Young led Pitt offensively, finishing with 16 points, nine rebounds and an assist, while Robinson totaled 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Artis, who entered the game averaging 15 points per game, struggled, scoring just five points on 1-8 shooting.
LeDay led all scorers, tallying 20 points, 10 rebounds and two assists.
On Sunday, the Panthers have one final chance to bolster their resumé prior to the ACC Tournament, when they travel to Atlanta to take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m.