Pitt falls to No. 12 Miami, 65-63, in final seconds
February 9, 2016 9:18 PM
Joel Auerbach/Associated Press
Miami's Ebuka Izundu (15) blocks a shot by Pitt's Rafael Maia in the first half Tuesday night in Coral Gables, Fla.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Angel Rodriguez was one of the smallest players on the court, but he came up with the biggest play of the game — in an area where big men usually roam.
Rodriguez, Miami’s 5-foot-11 point guard, somehow snuck inside against Pitt’s post players, jumped up and tipped in an errant shot with 1.4 seconds remaining to lift the 12th-ranked Hurricanes to a 65-63 ACC victory Tuesday night against the Panthers at BankUnited Center.
It was yet another disappointing loss for the Panthers (17-6, 6-5) as they fell to 0-4 against ranked opponents this season and must try to regroup before Sunday when they travel to No. 9 North Carolina.
“It is a good win for them, a bad loss for us,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “A tough game, they got the break at the end, they got the rebound, so give them credit. We felt like we should have won the game and we didn’t — we did some good things, we outrebounded them, but they outscored us from the free-throw line and that was a big factor.
“It is certainly disappointing to come out with a loss. We responded, we came back, we made plays and we were in very good position to win the game. But at the end of the day, we didn’t get the rebound at the end of the game, and that’s the problem.”
Pitt point guard James Robinson, who made big plays down the stretch and tied the score at 63-63 with a deep 3-pointer with 29 seconds left, said this was an especially tough loss because the Panthers felt like they did enough to win.
But he said the fact that Rodriguez was able to get an offensive rebound and tip it into the basket was just an example of one team making a play to win the game while the other stood around and watched.
“It basically comes down to a 50/50 ball and [Rodriguez] was lucky enough to tip it in,” Robinson said. “You have to go get the ball, it is a 50/50 ball, and we have to come up with it. We really have to come up with that loose ball in that situation.”
Pitt forward Ryan Luther added: “You have to rebound for 40 minutes, and that last one we didn’t get killed us. Coach said all week it isn’t the shot at the end of the game, it is the put-back and rebound. We didn’t get the ball and they were able to tip it in.”
Miami won despite Dixon using a new wrinkle on defense — a 3-2 zone that befuddled the Hurricanes for a lot of the first half — and the fact that the Panthers had a 33-29 edge in rebounding.
The 3-2 is something Dixon said the Panthers have been working on for weeks, and he liked a lot of what he saw from it but said it is a tough defense to rebound out of and pointed to the final play as an unfortunate example of this.
Luther was one of the few bright spots for Pitt as he had 12 points with a team-high seven rebounds and had two key put-backs as the Panthers built a lead right before halftime.
The Panthers held an 18-17 lead early despite dominating a lot of the play. Luther’s baskets powered a 9-2 run and they led, 27-19, after a jump shot by Michael Young with 3:19 remaining in the half.
Pitt had a 33-26 lead with a chance to claim the largest lead of the half on what could have been the final possession of the half, but Jamel Artis missed a 3-pointer with seven seconds left.
Miami got the rebound and had enough time to work it up the floor to Sheldon McClellan, who made a running 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull the Hurricanes to within 33-29 at halftime.
That six-point swing was significant as the Panthers played an excellent first half but instead of leading by 10 points only led by four.
“Obviously we didn’t get the break there,” Dixon said. “Their 3 goes in and ours doesn’t; we had an open look. We know how big of a play that was — it was obvious — but I don’t know what we could have done differently.”
The Hurricanes (19-4, 8-3) made a 9-2 run to start the second half and led, 38-35, but Pitt came roaring back and tied the score at 47-47 with a layup by Chris Jones, who then gave them a 49-47 lead on the next possession with a floater in the lane with with 9:01 left.
“We did a lot of good things and I’m proud of our guys for battling back,” Dixon said. “But at the end of the day, we’ve got to make enough plays to win and we didn’t.”
Rodriguez had a team-high 17 points and eight assists for Miami.
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