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Pitt beats Syracuse 72-71 to advance in ACC Tournament

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Cameron Johnson scored a career-high 24 points, James Robinson came up with a key steal and hit two big shots in the final minute and ‎Pitt‬ beat Syracuse 72-71 in the ‪‎ACC Tournament‬.

Robinson’s two clutch buckets put the Panthers up for good and in the process strengthened Pitt’s tournament resume.

The senior point guard stepped in the final minute of a back and forth affair that saw each team storm back from double-digit deficits.

After the Orange used a late 14-2 run— concluded by a Michael Gbinije dunk off a Pitt turnover—to tie the game, Robinson filled the passing lane under the Orange basket, got the steal from Syracuse guard Franklin Howard and went coast to coast to break a 68-68 tie with 1:05 left.

Then, with 23 seconds remaining, Robinson made a jumper from the lane to put the Panthers up 72-68. Gbinije then came back to hit a 3-pointer with 17 seconds left to pull within one at 72-71.

The Orange got one last chance after Sheldon Jeter missed the front end of a one and one, but Trevor Cooney missed a 3-pointer as time expired to end the game.

“I just saw an opportunity to shoot the gap on defense and I took it,” Robinson said of the steal that gave his team the lead. “The ball was right there waiting for me. Just made a play.”

Cameron Johnson led the Panthers (21-10) with 24 points off the bench, while Ryan Luther (13), Robinson (12) and Jamel Artis (10) all scored in double figures. Johnson also led all Panthers with six rebounds.

“It's just a basketball game,” said Johnson of his career performance. “They're all the same, 40 minutes, two teams, 10 players. That's how you got to approach it. I mean, if you let the moment get to you, you won't play as well.”

Gbinije scored 24 points to lead the Orange (19-13) in scoring. Malachi Richardson (13) and DaJuan Coleman (11) also scored in double figures. Coleman recorded a double-double with game high 11 rebounds for Syracuse and Howard had five assists to lead the Orange.

Syracuse led by 10 points early, but Pitt responded with a late run to take a 31-29 lead at the break. The Panthers appeared to take control of the game, stretching their lead to 14 points early in the second half and maintaining a 12-point advantage with four minutes left in the contest

“It was a tremendous comeback,” Orange head coach Jim Boeheim said. “I can't say enough about our effort. When you're down 11 or 12 points with not that much time left on the clock, it was a huge effort in that last couple minutes.”

Pitt may have clinched an NCAA berth with the win, their third over Syracuse this season.

“You think about how good a team this is,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said of Syracuse. “You look at the record, you take away the three losses against us, you see the teams they've beaten, where they would be, other than the three games against us.”

The Panthers will take on the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels on Thursday at noon on ESPN.

Johnson, Robinson lead Pitt over Syracuse

Pitt's Cameron Johnson is mobbed by his teammates in the locker room 

Previewing Thursday's quarterfinals matchup: Pitt vs. North Carolina

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