Pitt holds off Boston College, 66-59

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CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Pitt was in the midst of a three-game losing streak before the Panthers’ road game Wednesday night at Boston College. They were desperate for a win.

The Eagles appeared to be the perfect opponent as they have struggled most of this season and are fighting to stay out of last place in the ACC.

Pitt’s desperation and Boston College’s struggles made a nice match for the Panthers, who fashioned a workmanlike, 66-59 victory before a crowd of 3,329 at Conte Forum. That ended the losing streak and raised Pitt’s record to 21-7 overall, 9-6 in the ACC.

The Panthers couldn’t afford to lose to Boston College (7-21, 3-12), one of the worst teams in the power conferences. Furthermore, the win means Pitt will have at least a .500 record in its first season in the ACC.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said that, even though Boston College is not very good, it is still an ACC foe and a dangerous team. Former No. 1-ranked Syracuse found that out last week, when the Eagles upset them.

“No matter when a win happens, you have get wins and, hopefully, this one is something we can build on,” Dixon said. “We have played close games recently but we haven’t played well enough to win them at start of game. A lot of the focus is on the end, but we have to be better all the way through.

“If you look, we have lost to six teams in top 30 [of the Ratings Percentage Index — RPI] and mostly in close games and we have won most of our other games by significant margins. There is still plenty left to do.

“And winning the games against teams you are supposed to beat is something that is not always done, which is why teams that do are rewarded in the end.”

Cameron Wright added, “You play this game to win, we don’t go out there every night and bust our tails at practice to lose, we want to win. So, we came out here [Wednesday night], we lost three but we came out and played together and got it done together as a team.”

Talib Zanna led Pitt with 21 points and six rebounds. Lamar Patterson added 16 points and four rebounds, and Cameron Wright added 14 points and six rebounds.

Boston College grabbed a 7-2 lead early and Dixon called a timeout to get the Panthers organized and settled down. It worked as they responded with a 9-2 run and led, 11-9, on a jumper by Wright with 14:54 left in the half.

Garland Owens tied the score at 11-11 with 14:27 left in the half, but the Panthers hit a quick 3-pointer at the other end by Jamel Artis to own a 14-11 lead.

Artis’ 3-pointer also got the Pitt offense going, sparking a 12-0 run that ended with Derrick Randall’s layup with 11:13 to go in the half.

That gave the Panthers a 23-11 lead, and they pushed it to 15 at 30-15 with two free throws by Artis with 5:24 until the break. Again, Boston College fought back, finishing the half with an 11-5 run to trail, 35-26, at intermission.

Pitt opened a 40-26 lead early in the second half and seemed on the verge of blowing open the game.

But the Eagles responded with a 11-2 run over the next three minutes and pulled to within 42-37 on a free throw by Owens with 15:25 remaining.

Boston College wouldn’t go away, and the Eagles made several charges before Zanna finished them off with a 3-point play with 2:13 left that gave the Panthers a 62-53 lead.

“We’re damn close and it is frustrating,” Boston College coach Steve Donahue said. “And I don’t think our guys realize it.

“Pitt knows who they are, and you can look in their eyes and they know who they are. We don’t know exactly how we are going to win day-to-day yet.

“I believe we can be a good team. I see it, but I have to try and get them to believe in what I am saying, that we’re close.”

Olivier Hanlan led Boston College with 25 points, 3 assists and 3 steals.

Pitt was 23 of 46 (50 percent) from the field and outrebounded the Eagles, 33-18.

It was Pitt’s best shooting performance in the past eight games — the Panthers were 2-5 in their previous seven before Wednesday night — and Dixon said that was a result of them taking good shots.

“It really was shot selection,” Dixon said. “If you aren’t shooting well it is usually shot selection. I thought we did a better job against Florida State last game early and took good shots but didn’t do it the whole game.

“This game it continued throughout the entire game.

“It comes and goes and this is hopefully a continuation of what we did early in the season and the start of better offensive performances.”

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published February 26, 2014 10:27 PM

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