Second-half run propels Pitt to upset of 11th-ranked Cavaliers, 68-65

By Scott Ratcliffe

Nike Sibande (Photo: Pitt Athletics)

Things were looking good for the 11th-ranked Virginia men’s basketball team early in the second half Tuesday night at Pitt, as the Cavaliers held a 12-point advantage with 17:24 to play. Armaan Franklin had just sank a 3-pointer, the fourth UVA basket in four attempts coming out of the halftime break.

The Panthers took control from there, however, using a 16-2 run to grab their first lead of the game, and then held off a late Wahoo rally to end an eight-game skid in the series with a 68-65 win at Petersen Events Center.

For Jeff Capel’s team (11-4), it was their fifth-straight win (and 10th of their last 11) and first 4-0 ACC start since the 2013-14 season, as they moved into a tie with Miami atop the conference standings. As they have been much of the year, the Panthers were led by a trio of transfers — Blake Hinson, Nike Sibande and Jamarius Burton — who combined for 47 points as Pitt fought its way back for the victory.

”You have to be tough for 40 minutes, you have to be together, and you have to fight, and I thought we did that,” Capel said of the formula for knocking off the Cavaliers.

Virginia (10-3, 2-2) lost its third game in the last five outings, despite shooting at a better clip than its opponent. UVA shot 47 percent from the field on the evening (26 for 55) and 43 percent (9 for 21) from long range. The Panthers made several more trips to the foul line (17 to Virginia’s 4), converting 15 of them, while also turning 11 Cavalier giveaways into 21 points on the other end.

Tony Bennett, who remains tied atop the school’s all-time wins list with Terry Holland, pointed to his team’s inability to switch defenders properly down the stretch as being one of the biggest factors in the ball game.

“We were having some communication problems with some of the ball-screen coverages, and that hurt us,” he said.

Franklin added: “We knew [the Panthers] were a team that liked to get going in transition, and we couldn’t stop the transition ball screens and we were getting mixed up in coverages, so that’s how they got back in it.”

Bennett was also concerned with how easy some of the looks were that Pitt was getting in the second half, particularly down low.

“I thought our defense sort of got fractured and the ball was living in the paint, whether it was in the halfcourt off of a set, or certainly pushing it [in transition],” Bennett admitted. “And then we needed to come up with some hustle, tough rebounds or plays like that, and once again, we couldn’t get those.”

As mentioned, Virginia was cruising up until those breakdowns allowed the Panthers to begin chipping away. UVA led by as many as 13 in the first half and held a 33-23 halftime advantage after freshman Isaac McKneely sank a corner triple just before the horn.

The Hoos came out hot in the second half, as a Kihei Clark basket gave his team a 44-32 lead right around the 16-minute mark. That’s when the wheels began to fall off.

Pitt scored 14 unanswered points, capped by a Hinson bucket inside with 10:48 to play that gave the Panthers their first lead of the night.

Clark answered with a tough three-point play that briefly put the Cavaliers back on top. Moments later, Reece Beekman added another and-1 to make it a two-point Wahoo lead, and then Ben Vander Plas scored his only bucket of the night on a nice feed from Clark, as UVA led 55-53 with 6:30 remaining. That would be the Hoos’ last lead of the night, as Pitt’s Federiko Federiko tied it up on the ensuing possession, then a Hinson 3-ball put the Panthers ahead with 4:49 on the clock.

UVA was held scoreless for nearly four minutes, misfiring on 11 of 15 shots before Kadin Shedrick cut it to three, 60-57, with 2:44 to go.

McKneely knotted it up at 60-all with his second 3 of the evening with 1:45 showing, and then Sibande attempted to dunk the ball on the other end, but it rattled out and went out of bounds to the Cavaliers with 1:22 to play.

McKneely looked to have put his team on top with another long ball from the right wing, but Shedrick was whistled for an illegal screen, and then Federiko gave Pitt the lead for good with a minute left, 62-60, on a perfect feed from transfer point guard Nelly Cummings.

Virginia showed no real sense of urgency on the all-important ensuing trip down the floor, passing the ball around the perimeter and milking the shot clock down. Clark was able to get the ball in close for Shedrick to tie it up, but his basket was wiped off with 29.1 seconds remaining, as he barely missed releasing the ball out of his hand before the shot clock hit zero and the red light lit up the backboard.

Cummings, an excellent free-throw shooter coming in, was immediately fouled and calmly sank a pair. Franklin scored quickly to trim the deficit back to two, 64-62, with 19.8 to play, but Burton connected on two more freebies, and then Clark turned the ball over out of bounds looking for Shedrick with just 4.7 remaining.

The Panthers, who shot 43 percent for the game (23 for 54) and 32 percent from downtown (7 for 22), outscored Virginia 45-32 after halftime and outrebounded the Hoos, 32-28, on the evening. Hinson and Sibande each scored 16 to lead the way, as both knocked down three 3-pointers, while Burton scored 10 of his 15 in the second half. Federiko added 8 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Clark led all scorers with 17 points to go along with a game-high 8 assists and 4 steals, but he also committed a game-high 5 turnovers. Franklin had another solid all-around outing with 14 points (2 for 3 from deep), 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.

Beekman added 12 points, 6 boards and 3 dimes, and sank 3 of his 5 3-point attempts, while Shedrick finished with 10 points (4 for 5 FG), 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks.

Jayden Gardner, who had scored in double figures in nine of his last 10 games, scored just 4 points on 2-of-7 shooting in 23 minutes, while Vander Plas also struggled, scoring 2 points on 1-of-4 shooting (0 for 3 from long range) in the loss, in 22 minutes off the bench.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • Virginia fell to 10-3, 2-2 ACC
  • The loss snapped UVA’s eight-game winning streak vs. Pitt
  • UVA is 4-2 away from home, including a 2-2 true road record
  • Pitt outscored UVA 45-32 in the second half
  • Pitt went on a 14-0 run to gain a 46-44 lead
  • Virginia led 33-23 at the half
  • UVA used a 12-2 run to gain a 27-14 lead
  • UVA led 6-0 and held Pitt to a 0 for 6 start from the field
  • UVA attempted a season-low four free throws (4 of 4)
  • UVA forced one shot clock violation

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 19-5 all-time vs. Pitt in the series that dates to 1957-58
  • Virginia has won 15 of the last 17 games against Pitt, including an 8-4 record in Pittsburgh
  • UVA is 12-2 against Pitt since 2013-14 when the Panthers joined the ACC

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Kihei Clark (17), Armaan Franklin (14), Reece Beekman (12), Kadin Shedrick (10)
  • Franklin reached double figures for the 42nd time
  • Clark reached double figures for the 60th time
  • Shedrick reached double figures for the 19th time
  • Beekman reached double figures for the 21st time
  • Clark (1,237 points) passed Roger Mason (1,231 from 2000-02) for 33rd on UVA’s all-time scoring list
  • Francisco Caffaro missed the game with an injury

Three of Virginia’s next four games will be played at John Paul Jones Arena, beginning with Saturday’s 5-p.m. tilt with Syracuse (ACC Network).