Pitt and Virginia thrive on hard-nosed defense and offensive execution. Not surprisingly, when the two teams met Sunday the winner was the one who played the best defense and executed the best on offense in the final minute.
The Cavaliers got a huge defensive stop with 10 seconds to play and then ran a perfect play that led to a 3-pointer by Malcolm Brogdon with 0.4 seconds to play to lift Virginia past the Panthers, 48-45, in an ACC showdown before a crowd of 12,508 at Petersen Events Center.
"That was a hard-fought game, there just weren't a lot of easy looks out there all game," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "It stayed tight the whole way and you knew it was going to come down to the score and stop, we talked about that, and I was so proud of that last defensive stand and obviously the execution of the [3-pointer by Brogdon].
"It is funny, we never make it in practice but I'd rather make it in the game than practice, so good for Malcolm."
The final play Bennett drew up was a thing of beauty as the Cavaliers brought their top offensive player, Joe Harris, off a high screen and then had Brogdon follow him off the same high screen and he was open as the Panthers got caught in a defensive switch.
Bennett said it is an effective play because so many teams spend so much time trying to stop Harris they forget about the second player coming off the screen.
"I'm not telling you, I can't give that up," Bennett joked when asked what the winning play was. "Joe gets chased so much and we knew we could peel him off and run him off some action and then have kind of a high follow, we probably can do it once, maybe we can do it again.
"The timing was perfect, the pass good and obviously then you have to step up and make the shot."
The Panthers (18-4, 6-3) had a chance to take a lead in a possession before Brogdon hit the winner, but James Robinson missed an open look at a 3-pointer and Jamel Artis, who got the offensive rebound, missed a put-back.
Artis, who had a very good game otherwise, scoring a team-high 11 points and grabbing 7 rebounds, said he didn't have any excuses for missing the put-back -- he simply blew it.
"I didn't finish it," Artis said. "I need to finish it."
It was that kind of game for the Panthers, who lost for the second time in a row at home and fell into a third-place tie with Duke in the ACC. They made only 15 of 47 field-goal attempts (31.9 percent) and only 11 of 19 (57.9 percent) from the free-throw line.
The game was close the entire way as both teams played with a very similar philosophy of hard-nosed defense and a patient, deliberate offense. Possessions and points were at a premium.
Both teams played extremely hard on defense, so much so that Bennett said they needed to burn some clock on offense to get a rest for some of the players. The score was tied 17 times, a Petersen Events Center record.
Pitt looked as if it might have hit the shot to turn the game in its favor, though, with 6:52 to play when Cameron Wright hit a turn-around, bank-shot 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to give the Panthers a 44-41 lead.
But the Panthers scored only one more point the rest of the way and Harris tied the score at 45-45 with 3:12 to play with a free throw. The score remained tied until Brogdon, who led Virginia (17-5, 8-1) with 16 points and five rebounds, made the winner.
Neither team shot the ball well and both coaches attributed that to the grinding defense and slow pace had something to do with the shooting numbers.
Virginia was a little better than Pitt from the field, though, as the Cavaliers were 19 of 47 (40.4 percent) while the Panthers were 15 of 47 (31.9 percent).
Virginia made only 6 of 12 (50 percent) from the free-throw line.
"You're not going to get a lot of baskets in transition against them," Dixon said. "We got some pretty good looks. If you give me [Robinson's 3-point attempt] vs. the 3 [Brogdon] hit, I'd have our 3. You have to make some free throws down the stretch and we have to finish some plays around the basket. We're getting in the lane and getting there.
"Same thing last game, we're not finishing well around the basket. That is something that is catching up to us."
Lamar Patterson added 10 points, though he was 3 of 14 from the field, and for the second game in a row struggled to get good looks as Brogdon played tough defense on him almost the entire game.
That was similar to the game Monday against Duke, a loss by the Panthers, when Patterson struggled to get good looks against the Blue Devils.
"[Patterson] got into some foul trouble [Sunday] and that is going to affect anybody's game," Dixon said.
Pitt lost back-to-back games at home for the first time since 2011-12 (though it did lose two in a row at home with two road games in between) a season ago and fell into a third-place tie with Duke in the ACC standings.
"It wasn't a good week for us," Dixon said. "We simply didn't get it done. Any loss for us is disappointing but now we have three in conference and four overall. We will stick with this, we have got to get ready for our trip [to Miami] and get better offensively and defensively."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.