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Pitt second-half comeback stalls in OT

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Brad Wanamaker passed up an open look from beyond the arc with Pitt down by three points in the waning seconds of overtime, opting instead to pass to Gil Brown underneath. Brown's attempt was blocked and Pitt lost at No. 16 Louisville 62-59. Wanamaker finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Brown led all scorers with 20 points.

Louisville 62 - Pittsburgh 59
KFC Yum! Center, Louisville, KY
 
Pittsburgh overcame a season-low first-half points total to force overtime against Louisville, but the Panthers' comeback bid fell short after an Ashton Gibbs Hail Mary 3-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the backboard, giving the Cardinals a heart-fluttering 62-59 victory at KFC Yum! Center Sunday afternoon.
 
The Panthers (25-4, 13-3) fell behind by as many as 12 points and went 11:11 between field goals at one point in the first half, entering the locker room trailing No. 16 Louisville 31-22. No. 4 Pitt shot just 32 percent from the field in the first half, as Gibbs missed all five of his attempted shots while scoring only four points.
 
While the Cardinals' (22-7, 11-5) aggressive defense, alternating between man-to-man and a 2-3 zone, flustered Pitt, the Cardinals also struggled on offense in the first half by shooting 36.7 percent.
 
Pitt erased the deficit in the second half, swishing 56 percent of its field goal attempts while Louisville continued to clang shots (31 percent). Brad Wanamaker hit a jumper to tie the game at 56 with 18 seconds remaining.
 
The Cardinals' Peyton Silva drove inside in the second half's waning seconds, trying to bank a shot off the backboard in front of Gary McGhee, but the 6-11 senior used his foot height advantage to swat the ball out of bounds with 2.3 seconds left.
 
Louisville had a chance to snatch the win in regulation, as Kyle Kuric cut inside and received the ensuing inbounds pass near the rim, but Wanamaker got in the way, blocking Kuric's attempt while avoiding a foul call on the contact play to force OT.
 
A Kuric 3-pointer and a free throw from Terrence Jennings made it 60-56 Cardinals in OT. McGhee, fouled by Preston Knowles with 1:45 left, got one back for the Panthers by going 1-for-2 from the foul line. That would be Pitt's only score in the game's extra five minutes, however.
 
With the game's score still 60-57 Louisville, Wanamaker declined to take a 3-point shot with five seconds left, feeding a pass inside to Gilbert Brown instead. Brown lost the handle on the ball. Louisville's Terrence Jennings grabbed it and passed to Siva, who flung a pass down the court to Kuric, seemingly sealing the win.
 
Rather than running out the clock, though, Kuric laid down a tomahawk dunk to put the Cardinals ahead 62-57. That's when an overzealous Louisville male cheerleader channeled the Stanford band by getting involved in the action before the game was over.
 
The clock didn't stop after Kuric's dunk and the horn blared, prompting cheerleader to scoop up the ball and toss it skyward. But 0.3 seconds were put back on the clock, and the cheerleader's school spirit drew a technical foul that putt Pitt's Gibbs at the free throw line for two shots.
 
Gibbs converted both attempts from the charity stripe, giving the Panthers one last chance to tie the game. Gibbs then got the long inbounds pass inside half court, but his last-gasp attempt to extend the game missed the mark.

"All good things have to come to an end, and the male cheerleader comes to an end," Louisville head coach Rick Pitino quipped.

Wanamaker starred for the Panthers, posting a double-double (13 points and a season-high 12 rebounds) while also assisting on six field goals, forcing three steals and blocking two shots.

Gilbert Brown led Pitt with 20 points, making 8 of his 15 shots attempts. Gibbs overcame his slow start to finish with 14 points, struggling from the field (3-of-11) but making his shots from the line (6-of-7). Gibbs was the only Panther to consistently knock down his free throws, though -- overall, the team was 11-of-20 (55 percent) on freebies.

Wanamaker, Brown and Gibbs were the only Pitt players to reach the double-digits, as Travon Woodall placed fourth with a paltry four points. McGhee had nine rebounds but took only one shot, finishing with three points.Nasir Robinson, who had scored double-digits points in four of his past five games, had a particularly rough afternoon (1-of-7 shooting, three points). Pitt's bench contributed just six points, compared to 21 for Louisville.

The Panthers, leading the conference and placing third nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, had 12 helpers and coughed the ball up 16 times. The Cardinals, by contrast, had 18 assists and 9 turnovers.

"We did some good things," said Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon. "It just came down to turnovers. We had four travels. We had some in the lane. We had some in the press. Those are things we have to work on."

Pitt also didn't dominate on the boards like usual, either -- the nation's number two team in rebound margin grabbed just one more board (39 to 38) than a Louisville squad that played most of the game without leading rebounder Rakeem Buckles, who sprained his right knee in the first half.

Siva sparked the Cardinals with 14 points, while Kuric  added 12 points and seven rebounds. Mike Marra came off the bench to score 11, including three 3-pointers. Louisville, leading the Big East in 3-point shot attempts, lofted 30 from behind the arc but made just eight (26.7 percent). Knowles, Louisville's leading scorer, shot 3-of-12 on the day, including one 3-pointer in eight tries.
 
At 13-3 in Big East play, Pitt sits a single game ahead of Notre Dame in the conference standings with games remaining at South Florida on Wednesday and at home against Villanova on March 5. Pitt must place ahead of the Notre Dame in the standings, having dropped a 56-51 game to the Fighting Irish on January 24. Notre Dame hosts Villanova Monday, then finishes the regular season March 5 at UConn.
 
PLAY OF THE GAME
The Cardinals' Lou Smith forced a Wanamaker turnover at half-court, then lofted a pass to Peyton Siva, who showed the explosiveness in his 5-11 frame by elevating and slamming it home for a fast-break dunk to make it 38-31 Louisville with 15:17 left in the second half.
 
QUOTABLE
"This is a tough loss for us. We caught them [Louisville] out of sync a little bit in the second half but we just couldn't make some shots and didn't finish strong in overtime."

-- Brad Wanamaker on Pitt's OT loss to the Cardinals
 
TEAM STATS
FG%
: PITT 41.5, LOU 34.4
FT%: PITT 55.0, LOU 76.9
3-PT: PITT 28.6, LOU 26.7
RBS: PITT 39, LOU 38

LEADERS
Scoring:
PITT- Brown 20; LOU Siva 14
Rebounds: PITT- Wanamaker 12; LOU Kuric 7
Assists: PITT- Wanamaker 6; LOU Knowles 7
Blocks: PITT- McGhee, Wanamaker 2; LOU Dieng, Jennings 1
Steals: PITT- Wanamaker 3; LOU Chris Smith 2

NEXT UP
Pitt gets South Florida (9-20, 3-13) on the road Wednesday night at 9 p.m. The Panthers vanquished the Bulls 67-55 at the Peterson Events Center on February 16, as Nasir Robinson notched a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. South Florida's moribund offense ranks 308th nationally in points per game. Louisville looks to stay undefeated in conference play at the Yum! Center Wednesday at 7 p.m., hosting Providence.

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