Pitt Basketball: Panthers upset by Wagner, 59-54
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon argues a call as his team takes on Wagner in the first half Friday night.
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Pitt lost one game against a non-conference opponent in the first nine seasons in the Petersen Events Center. Now, in the span of five weeks, the Panthers have dropped two non-conference games at their home building.
Wagner pulled off a 59-54 upset Friday night before a nationally televised auidence on ESPNU and spoiled the holiday for the Panthers, who have to lick their wounds over the next few days before opening Big East play Tuesday at Notre Dame.
Pitt had won 91 of 92 games outside league play at the Petersen Events Center before this season, but the Panthers lost to Long Beach State Nov. 16. They had won nine consecutive games before meeting Wagner, which was coming off a home loss to Lehigh.
The loss was noteworthy for another reason. Pitt had won all 70 of its previous games against teams from the Northeast Conference, including its first two this season against Robert Morris and Saint Francis, Pa.
Wagner became the first team from the NEC to beat a team from the Big East since 2006. The conference was 0-14 agianst Big East teams this season.
Latif Rivers led Wagner (8-3) with 18 points.
Ashton Gibbs led Pitt (11-2) with 14, but he was 5 for 16 from the field and was shut out in the first half. Gibbs was 1 for 7 from 3-point range, and the Panthers were 2 for 13 as a team from behind the arc.
Wagner shot 43 percent for the game and benefitted from 18 Pitt turnovers.
Wagner led 29-25 at halftime. The Seahawks took it to the Panthers at the beginning of the second half after controlling play for all but a few minutes in the first half.
After Chris Martin drilled a 3-pointer with 11:52 remaining, the Seahawks led by double digits for the first time, 44-32. That basket capped a 10-2 run for Wagner.
Pitt answered with the next three baskets. Nasir Robsinon scored made back-to-back hoops to makeit, 44-36, and then Gibbs made a layup after a Wagner turnover to trim the lead to six with 9:02 remaining.
That was the first of three baskets in less than three minutes for Gibbs, who made his first 3-pointer to get Pitt within five and another layup a short while later to make it 48-44. The Panthers had three possessions to cut into the lead more, but committed three turnovers. Gibbs turned the ball over as he tried to create a shot for himself along the baseline, J..J. Moore threw the ball out of bounds on an inbounds plays and Robinson was called for traveling.
After Naofall Folahan made one free throw, Moore missed a wide open 3-pointer. After a Wagner miss, Dante Taylor had a chance to cut the lead to two after getting fouled on a dunk, but he missed the free throw.
That turned out to be a big miss. Jonathon Williams then took Taylor off the dribble to make it 51-46, and Wagner did not allow the Panthers to makea comeback.
Pitt got off to a good start and led 9-2 after the first four minutes, but Wagner controlled the pace for the rest of the half. The Seahawks answered with a 9-2 run of their own to tie the score at 11-11. Pitt retook the lead, 17-13, but it was all Wagner for the rest of the half.
Wagner outscored the Panthers, 16-8, over the final 10 minutes of the half. During one stretch, the Panthers went 8:25 minutes without making a basket.
The only points the Panthers scored were free throws by J.J. Moore and Lamar Patterson. The Seahawks seized control with a 12-2 run, which was capped by a 3-pointer from Tyler Murray, who finished the half with 10 points.
Ortiz also scored 10 points in the half, going 5 for 5 from the field, as he took it to Gibbs on the offensive and defensive end. Gibbs was 0 for 7 from the field and did not score in the first half. After Ortiz scored his fifth basket, Dixon had seen enough and switched Cameron Wright onto Ortiz for the rest of the half.
Here's how bad it was for Pitt: after making its fourth field goal of the game at the 16:12 mark, the Panthers had just four more field goals the rest of the half.
Wagner, meanwhile, made 44 percent of its shots in the first half and capitalized on nine turnovers by the Panthers. Three of those were by Lamar Patterson, who had a combined three turnovers in the previous games.
Patterson was one of the many Pitt players, who missed some point-blank layups in the half. Patterson was 1 for 6 from the field. Cameron Wright, who entered the game averaging 3.0 points per game, was the only starter to make more the one basket in the half.
As a team, the Panthers were 8 for 23 from the field. They also missed the inside presence of Taylor, who picked up two early fouls and played just five minutes in the half. Without Taylor in the game, Wagner held its own on the boards and only trailed, 17-14, in rebounds at the half.
First Published December 23, 2011 12:00 am