Pitt's Damon Wilson goes up for a basket as Virginia's Devon Hall defends in the first half at Petersen Events Center.
Virginia's London Perrantes goes up for a basket as Pitt's Michael Young defends in the first half.
Virginia's Anthony Gill dunks in the second half.
Pitt's Damon Wilson goes up for a basket as Virginia's London Perrantes defends in the second half.
Pitt's Michael Young looks for a teammate to pass the ball as Virginia's Evan Nolte blocks in the first half.
Pitt's Chris Jones grabs a rebound from Virginia's Darius Thompson in the first half.
Pitt's Sheldon Jeter goes up for a basket as Virginia's Isaiah Wilkins defends in the first half.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pitt had a sold-out Petersen Events Center, a loud and rowdy “blackout” crowd and — as junior forward Sheldon Jeter said earlier this week — a chance to make a huge statement Saturday with a big win against a top-10 team.
Then the game started and No. 9 Virginia decided to ruin the party and write a completely different script. The Cavaliers dominated the Panthers with superior passing, shooting and their trademark pack-line defense.
Virginia seized control of the game shortly after the half with a barrage of 3-pointers, then smothered the Panthers and came away with a 64-50 ACC win before a crowd of 12,508.
“Our fans are great, especially the Zoo with the blackout,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “Marketing and everybody else did a great job with that, but it is disappointing to play like we did. You can’t let teams go 9 of 16 from the 3-point line and shoot 50 percent from the field and expect to beat a good defensive team.
“I’m really disappointed in the way that we played. We had time to get ready, but we just couldn’t get it done.”
It was yet another disappointing — and lopsided — loss for the Panthers (17-5, 6-4) against a highly ranked opponent. Things don’t get any easier as they must now go on the road to play No. 17 Miami (Tuesday) and No. 2 North Carolina (next Sunday).
The Panthers’ inability to add a marquee win to their resume has raised a lot of questions about just how good they are, and Dixon said those questions won’t go away until Pitt wins a couple of big games.
“You are who you are,” Dixon said. “And you are the team that just played, and we are a team that today is 14 points behind Virginia. Let’s keep it real simple. You can say all those different things, but facts are the facts and that’s where we are at.
“We deserved to lose because of how we played, but one game doesn’t define our season.”
The Cavaliers (19-4, 7-3) lost three road games in a row to start their ACC season, but now have won their past three road games. Against Pitt, they looked every bit the part of the team that has won the conference championship each of the past two seasons.
Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said he was happy with his team’s execution and that they are finally starting to really settle in on defense and getting back to being one of the toughest teams to score on in Division I.
He said the Oakland Zoo was loud, so they wanted to play with poise and be patient and try to take some of the crowd noise out of the equation. They were successful because they got a lead and held onto it for most of the game.
“When we are playing our defensive system well, we’re trying to take away the lane and make teams shoot contested shots,” Bennett said. “I was nervous about [Pitt’s ability to hit 3-pointers], but we said we’ve got to take care of the paint and then we’ll worry about bothering their shots.
“This was one of our better position games, defensively, for most of the day. We were always in the right spots and we tried to make it hard on [Michael] Young. You could tell the crowd wanted to get into it, and they did for stretches, but for the most part we kept them at bay.”
Cavaliers guard London Perrantes, who scored 14 points, said the key to winning in a hostile environment such as Petersen Events Center is to ignore the crowd noise and focus on playing the game as if they weren’t even in the building.
That’s why they didn’t get rattled in the second half when Pitt made a couple of runs and the Zoo got loud again.
“We just play our game,” he said. “We’re not worried about the crowd. The crowd doesn’t play basketball, they just sit around and cheer for them. We knew coming in this was going to be a hostile crowd, but we also knew we just needed to come in and play our game, and that’s what we did.”
Pitt quickly tied the score after the half at 31-31, but the Cavaliers again dialed up the 3-pointers and made a 12-0 run — powered by three consecutive 3s — and led, 43-31, after a three-point play by Devon Hall with 15:52 to play.
Virginia’s relentless defense, and patience and execution on offense made it tough for the Panthers to get back into the game and the Cavaliers led by double digits for the final 12:27.
“When we got down, I don’t think we handled it very well,” Dixon said. “They are a hard team to play against when you get behind. We preached it and talked about it, to not get behind and don’t get into that situation, but we did.”
Malcolm Brogdon led the Cavaliers with 21 points and they scored 20 points off of 11 Pitt turnovers.
Jamel Artis scored 17 points and Young had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Pitt, but the two had little help as nobody else scored more than eight points.
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