Miami's Tonye Jekiri knocks the ball away from Pitt's Lamar Patterson Feb. 5. in Coral Gables, Fla. Pitt won 59-55 in overtime. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
MIAMI -- Senior Lamar Patterson has been Pitt's go-to guy all season, and he has more than played the part, often carrying the offense as his teammates struggled to score.
In a 59-55 victory Wednesday against Miami, he again provided a spark with 25 points, including a school-record 10 in overtime.
His 3-pointer early in the overtime erased Miami's momentum and lead, and his three late free throws sealed the Panthers victory.
Patterson had struggled in the previous two games -- back-to-back losses at home to Duke and Virginia -- hitting just 7 of 28 from the field (25 percent) and 3 of 9 3-pointers.
"It was just a matter of my shots not falling," Patterson said of those two games. "I had good looks in every game, so those are just things you really can't worry about.
"Sometimes you have to have amnesia about things."
Patterson certainly did that against the Hurricanes and improved his candidacy for ACC player of the year.
Forget about the overtime. The Panthers don't get to the overtime if he doesn't drive the lane and score with 13 seconds left to give Pitt a 46-45 lead.
And the play was vintage Patterson. He got the ball at the top of the key, beat his man off the dribble and got to the hoop for the basket.
The Hurricanes tied the score with a free throw with six seconds to play and then hit a 3-pointer to open the overtime. As tough as points were to come by in the game, it seemed as if the Panthers were in trouble.
But that's when Patterson took over, and that's why the Panthers (19-4, 7-3 ACC) are still in contention for the conference title.
While Patterson said he wasn't trying to play the hero, he knew the Panthers were running out of time to score in regulation and he wanted to deliver.
"I knew we were only down one at that point so we didn't need a 3-pointer. We just needed a bucket and I got it," said Patterson, who is averaging 17.7 points per game and has been the ACC player of the week three times.
"[In overtime,] I just saw the opportunity and just went. I didn't want to leave this game thinking, 'I could have gave more.' I just wanted to put my print on the game."
Coach Jamie Dixon said Patterson did an excellent job of getting into position to score and his teammates did a good job of finding him.
And while Dixon said the Panthers don't want to become overly reliant on Patterson, he admitted that it's nice to have such a reliable option.
"We didn't want to focus on one guy [at the end of the game]; we think we have other guys, too, who can make plays," Dixon said. "I think we had pretty good movement and spacing to get him in that position and he was able to get to the basket.
"So that's what we wanted to get; we wanted to get a good shot. I thought he was really patient throughout the game and that's what helped. They didn't always know it was going to him or through him or that he was the guy taking the shot."
Dixon said Patterson's 3-pointer to tie the score in overtime was a "big momentum swing" for the Panthers and that it was good to see him at the line making the late free throws because of his struggles in the two recent losses.
The Panthers return to Petersen Events Center on Saturday and will seek their 20th win of the season in a noon game against Virginia Tech (8-14, 1-9), which has been at the bottom of the ACC all season.
But Patterson said the Panthers won't be overlooking anybody.
"We just have to come out with W's," he said. "I am surprised Miami [11-11, 2-7] isn't better [in the standings]. They have all the pieces, they are a good team. And Virginia Tech is a good team, and we have to be ready to play."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.
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