Panthers fall in ACC semis in tough battle vs. Virginia

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The first time Pitt played Virginia, the game came down to a Malcolm Brogdon 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Cavaliers the win.

In the rematch Saturday, it came down to a 3-pointer again -- only this time it was the Panthers who had the ball.

Justin Anderson blocked James Robinson's attempt with four seconds to play to preserve a 51-48 win for top-seeded Virginia in an ACC tournament semifinal before a crowd of 21,533 at Greensboro Coliseum.

"Four seconds is a lot of time to shoot," Dixon said. "We felt he had a good look, but Anderson is obviously a good athlete and made a play. But you usually want a guy flying at you in that situation with four seconds, because then you can drive it, lean into him and there are some things you can do."

The loss eliminated the No. 5-seeded Panthers (25-9) from the tournament, but their season is not over. They are expected to get an invitation to the NCAA tournament tonight when the brackets are unveiled.

Pitt is expected to get a No. 9 or 10 seed, which means the Panthers likely will have a tough first-round game. But then again, they weren't even a sure bet to make the tournament about 10 days ago.

But three wins in a row, one on the road and two in the ACC tournament, have moved them squarely into the field, and they must rebound from this loss to the Cavaliers and get ready to play again.

"We have to turn the page here at some point," Dixon said. "We have to get ready and move on and prepare. We are playing our best basketball, we are healthy, we have developed some freshmen who played major minutes under the belt.

"The key is we have to learn from our mistakes. You can be angry, you can be disappointed or you can learn. You have today to be angry and disappointed but we improved this week; we need to improve next week."

Against the Cavaliers, Pitt had its chances. It was a close game throughout, which wasn't a surprise given that both teams like to grind it out on offense and play great defense.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said he knew the game would be a "blue-collar knuckle-buster," and that's exactly what it was.

Virginia scored the first four points of the game, which was the largest lead of the half. There were six ties and 10 lead changes before halftime.

The game continued to be a grind until about midway through the second half when the Cavaliers got a bit of separation with a 4-0 run and took a 43-36 lead with 10:44 to play on a baseline drive by Joe Harris.

Pitt made its own 5-0 run and got back to within three on a driving layup by Lamar Patterson with 4:13 to play and had a chance to get closer, but Cameron Wright turned over the ball.

Harris pushed the lead to 47-42 with a layup, but Josh Newkirk scored with 2:25 left to pull the Panthers back within three.

Brogdon made a layup with a minute to play to give the Cavaliers a 49-44 lead, but Pitt responded immediately with a quick hitter to Patterson for a back-door layup with 48 seconds left.

What happened next was one of those controversial plays that stands out in a close, grinding game. The Cavaliers tried to run down the shot clock, but Robinson made a steal before they could get a shot off.

Robinson then took the ball the length of the court and made a layup to pull the Panthers to within 49-48 with 10 seconds to play. It appeared that he got bumped by Virginia's Akil Mitchell, but no foul was called.

"We just saw the video," Dixon said. "What can you do? Just watched it. Everybody saw it. Obviously I can't comment about anything else besides that.

"I can't state the obvious."

Mitchell said he was "a little bit" surprised there wasn't a foul called.

"I wanted to contest it as best as I could," he said. "I definitely didn't want to foul. But, you know, they let it go."

After Robinson's layup, the Cavaliers inbounded the ball to Anthony Gill, one of their worst free-throw shooters at 62 percent, but he made both to push the lead to 51-48 and set up the final sequence when Robinson had his 3-point attempt blocked.

A key to the Cavaliers' ability to take control of the game in the second half was their defense on Talib Zanna, who had 12 points and five rebounds in the first half.

But Virginia paid more attention to Zanna in the second half, and he finished with 15 points and nine rebounds.

"He is a beast," Brogdon said. "We really keyed in on him and tried to make everything tough for him, tried to box him out and make other people rebound for him. I think as long as we did that, we could keep him sort of out of the game and out of his rhythm."

The Panthers, who outrebounded Virginia, 29-27, also left key points at the free-throw line. They made only 9 of 14, while Virginia made 6 of 7.

Patterson had 15 points and seven rebounds, but was 2 of 8 from the 3-point line.

Harris led the Cavaliers with 12 points, and Brogdon and Gill each added 10.

"They are a solid team. They just don't make many mistakes," Patterson said. "They stick together and they do a good job of sagging into the paint. They are a really good team, that is why they won the conference."

Paul Zeise:, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.

Paul Zeise:, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise. First Published March 15, 2014 3:22 PM

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