Final play keys Virginia’s win over Pitt


A recurring scene played out through the majority of Pitt’s game against Virginia on Sunday. The team on offense methodically works the ball around the court while players make cuts through the defense, fighting to prevent open floor space. All the while, the shot clock ticks down.

That tendency is telling of both the type of teams  — ones with grinding defense and acute offensive abilities — and of the type of game — one where every possession matters, and the last one might decide the outcome.

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said he saw the contest heading in that direction.

“This is a one-possession game,” Dixon said after the Panthers’ 48-45 loss. “And we knew it would be a low-possession game and teams would be taking guarded shots for most of the game, and that’s what it was.”

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett saw the trend too.

“It was a hard-fought game. There wasn’t many easy looks out there,” Bennett said. “Each team felt like they had the chance to maybe separate, maybe get up five or six, but then the other team would make a play. It was tight the entire game, we knew it was going to come down to a score or a stop.”

It was both.

The stop:

It was another typical possession in the second half of the game. Out of a timeout, Pitt passed and passed and passed, searching for any open look. With the shot clock slipping to five seconds, Panthers eventually found one.

Redshirt senior forwardLamar Patterson kicked to an open sophomore point guard James Robinson, but he misfired. Freshman forward Jamel Artis swooped in for the offensive rebound, bounced the ball once and went for the layup while falling. His put-back attempt failed.

Although it proved fruitless, Dixon liked the opportunities.

“That was a good look and [Robinson’s] a good shooter,” he said. “That’s stepping into a three rather than drifting and fading away. I think I would take that shot in a normal situation. The layup that we had from Jamel I liked, too.”

Though Artis was off balance in his layup attempt, he was steadfast in asserting that he wasn’t fouled and put the onus on his shoulders.

“I didn’t finish,” he said, perturbed at the missed chance. “You have to finish.”

Once Virginia sophomore forward Anthony Gill corralled the rebound, the Cavaliers called a timeout with 9.1 seconds to play. They got the stop — two of them, actually — and just needed a bucket. And they hadn’t made a field goal in more than eight minutes.

The score:

Virginia freshman guard London Perrantes dribbled upcourt, crossing the halfway mark with five seconds. He waited for senior guard Joe Harris to whip around a screen at the 3-point line. But Harris was the decoy and sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon, who trailed just behind Harris on the same path, was the option all along.

Brogdon caught the ball, leapt, released, drilled the shot and silenced the crowd with 0.4 seconds remaining.

“We executed [the play] really well,” Brogdon said. “I haven’t hit it one time in practice all year. We’ve been practicing it all the time, and I hit it today.”

Virginia got its score.

“We just wanted to have a chance. I told the guys at halftime that I love this,” Bennett said. “This is where you want to be right here, right now. To score and stop, we will make them earn it and get a great look … They could have gotten an offensive put back on that possession, and you would have to come down. It is a fine margin of error either way, and fortunately we were on the right side.”