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Robinson leads Panthers past Wake Forest in double-overtime

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James Robinson scored 22 points, collected 10 rebounds and dished out 9 assists to lead ‪Pitt‬ over Wake Forest 101-96 in double-overtime Tuesday night at the Petersen Events Center.

PITTSBURGH - Chris Jones added 23 points and seven rebounds as Pitt ended a three game losing streak and kept their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

After struggling against North Carolina on Sunday, Robinson had an impressive bounce-back game. In addition to his near triple-double, Robinson has 3 steals and did not commit a turnover in 44 minutes. The senior hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 18 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

“James was big. It was good to see those shots go in down the stretch,” Jamie Dixon said. “He did a great job down the stretch.”

While the win may not look like a tournament resume builder, it was a game Pitt could not afford to lose, especially on their home floor.

“We saved the game, I don’t know about the season,” Robinson said. “It was a tough win for us, and we reached our goal of going 1-0 today.”

Jamel Artis and Michael Young each scored 19 points, while Rafael Maia grabbed 12 rebounds.

Cornelius Hudson led Wake Forest with 22 points, while freshman Bryant Crawford chipped in with 20.

For the third straight game, Dixon called on a different starting five, as Young was inserted back into the lineup after a one-game hiatus.

Jones, starting his second consecutive game, hit his first three shots from behind the arc and helped carry his team’s offense early.

The Panthers allowed 12 fast break points in the first ten minutes, and Danny Manning’s side shot over 60 percent for much of the first half.

A five minute Wake Forest scoring drought helped hand Pitt the lead at the end of the first half despite being outshot by 10 percent.

Neither team found their stride in the first 20 minutes, but Dixon’s squad had to feel as though there were a scoreboard malfunction which handed them an unforeseen advantage.

Artis became the third Panther to reach the 1,000 point plateau this season with 15:28 remaining in the second half. Young and Robinson accomplished the feat earlier in the conference schedule.

The flow to Pitt’s offense was much better to start the second half and the Panthers built a double digit lead.

Feeling the need to match their counterpart from the first half, Pitt went on a five minute scoring drought of their own midway through the half. The Deacons took advantage, going on a 10-0 run to tie the game with seven minutes left.

Wake Forest gave Pitt every chance to win, making only 16 of 32 attempts from the free throw line. The Panthers also outrebounded the Deacons 26-13 in the second half, keeping them in the game despite a 1-17 shooting stretch late.

“The bottom line is we had opportunities…the free throws, the rebounding,” Manning said. “We didn’t do that well enough to win.”

Rebounding played a big part in the eventual outcome, as the Panthers held a 58-35 edge, including a significant 26-9 advantage on the offensive end. Pitt has out-rebounded their past two opponents on the offensive boards 45-10.

“We’re getting a lot of offensive rebounds but we’ve got to finish them,” Dixon said. “It means we’re getting a lot of good shots.”

Wake had a three-point lead with 20 seconds remaining, but the Deacons were sent scrambling after Jones secured an offensive rebound, leading to Robinson’s game-tying three.

The teams went back and forth in the first overtime. Down 82-81 with 9 seconds left, Robinson and Ryan Luther both had chances to win the game at the free throw line, but only managed to make 1 of 4, and the teams would have to decide the outcome in a second overtime.

Robinson’s poise proved too much for Wake in the second overtime, as he scored seven points to lead Pitt to much-needed victory.

“We knew this wasn’t going to be a season-breaker, but the start of something,” Artis said. “We’ve got to look forward to the next game.”

The Panthers return the court on Saturday at Syracuse.

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