Wake Forest travelled Tuesday up to the state of Pennsylvania to take on the 17-7 Pittsburgh Panthers in the hope that they could finally end their 10-game conference-losing streak. It didn’t end the way we all wanted.
In the first couple minutes of the ballgame, Wake found itself in an all-out shootout with the Panthers, as both teams traded buckets for the better part of the first 8 minutes. Pitt was getting most of its production from sharpshooter Chris Jones, who started the game 3-3 from behind the arc and was finding major holes in the Deacons’ newly implemented zone. Wake’s zone seemed to be a hybrid of a 3-2 and a man-to-man, with three guards lined up near the top of the arc while Dinos seemed to be guarding an opposing big straight up. Apart from Jones’ stroke, the zone did seem to work fairly effectively against the Pitt offense, as the rest of the team went just 1-7 from 3 in the first half and struggled to find a rhythm.
Wake then went on a big run to take a 32-24 lead fueled by the introductions of Doral Moore, John Collins, and Bryant Crawford continuing to have his way on offense. The two highlight plays of the half came during this stretch, with a beautiful Crawford to Collins alley oop and a vintage Doral Moore two-handed slam to extend the lead. Unfortunately, this dunk at the 8:05 mark would be the Deacons’ last FG of the half and Pitt went on a 11-1 run over the final minutes to take a 35-33 lead into the break. Wake over this span was getting decent looks and John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou both had opportunities from the line, but squandered them as they combined to go 1-4 with both of Collins’ misses being the front end of a one-and-one.
You can't win ACC games going 16-32 from the line, giving up 26 O Rebs, and turning it over on a crucial inbounds after TO. You just can't.— WFU Sports Stats (@DeacFan3) February 17, 2016
In the second half Pitt came out firing and got out to a six-point lead early. At this point one began to fear that the game was going to fall into the theme of the rest of the season.
Pittsburgh time and time again attacked the rim in the hope of either getting fouled or sinking easy buckets against the Deacon defense. Two And-1’s on back-to-back possessions against Doral Moore may have given fans a glimpse of why Danny Manning has limited the talented freshman’s minutes this season. At the same time, Moore’s offensive ability was one of Wake’s most consistent weapons on the attack and was a huge reason the lead didn’t become dangerously large midway through the second. He also had a monster block and altered multiple floaters in the lane to keep Pitt scoreless for a 4+ minute stretch in the half.
By the under 8 timeout, Wake had tied up the ballgame at 56 despite being down 10 just a few minutes before. The next few minutes were dominated by ticky-tack fouls that were some of the most questionable calls I’ve seen in a while. Both teams, however, failed to make it count from the line or capitalize on the opponents’ struggles.
Finally, after a big three, FT, and dunk by Bryant Crawford on consecutive possessions, Wake was able to take a five-point lead into the final TV timeout; it’s biggest since 32-26 in the first half. However, two straight poor possessions that ended up in an airball heave at the buzzer and a shot clock violation allowed Pitt to get back into the game and regain the lead at 69-68. Pitt also recorded four offensive rebounds in this stretch that led to four second-chance points as well.
After a long defensive possession, Wake Forest had the ball with 44.5 seconds to go, tied at 69 and a chance to take the lead. Danny Manning opted to go to a backdoor alley oop lob to Codi Miller-McIntire that failed, but Dinos Mitoglou ended up with the ball and drained a clutch 3 off the broken play. On the opposite end of the floor, Pitt missed a long three from the top of the key, but once again got an offensive rebound and PG James Robinson responded with a three of his own to tie it up. Bryant Crawford had a contested look as time wound down to potentially win the game for the Deacs, but the ball didn’t fall and Wake would enter its first OT game of ACC play.
In OT, the Deacs started off with a big time 3 ball from Cornelius Hudson, but couldn’t get a stop as the Pitt bigs continued to create second chance opportunities off the glass. A very athletic layup by Cornelius Hudson around the 2 minute mark put the Deacs up 1 at 79-78, but two free throws and an ensuing steal by Michael Young pushed the Panthers back up to 81-79. Hudson once again hit a clutch three, his fourth of the game, to give Wake a 82-81 lead and a nice strip gave WF a much needed stop on the other end. Free throw struggles continued to plague the team, however, as Hudson missed two in a row and proceeded to touch a ball going out of bounds that was surely destined to be WF basketball.
The following possession, Ryan Luther of Pitt went to the line after a questionable foul call on the inside, but missed both as well and DT brought in the rebound and smartly called a TO to get the ball in the hands of potentially a better FT shooter. Unfortunately, Codi Miller McIntire could not get the ball in on the inbounds and turned it over with Mitchell Wilbekin promptly fouling and sending James Robinson to the line. Robinson missed the first, but hit the second and the following drive and shot by Bryant Crawford went awry to send this game to double OT tied at 82-82.
This team just keeps finding more obscene and excruciating ways to lose basketball games.— Deacons Illustrated (@WakeRivals) February 17, 2016
The second OT started slower than the first, but a pair of free throws by both teams pushed the game to 84-84 in the first minute and a half. Soon after, Chris Jones, who had 23 at the time, fouled CMM on a drive with 3:07 to go to foul out and send the Senior WF Guard to the line. It was surprising given how much Wake had struggled from the stripe all game long that they were not afraid to take it to the rim and try and create contact in the 2nd OT, hitting the first four free throws of the period. Cornelius Hudson then hit his FIFTH three of the game on the following possession to give Wake its first lead of the overtime and some much needed momentum in an arena that was getting louder and louder by the minute.
Despite a Pitt turnover on the next possession, two wasted offensive possessions by Wake (a TO and a bad long 2) followed by two big jumpers by the home team gave Pitt a 3 point lead with 56 seconds left in the game. Another forced three by Crab put WF in a tough spot and James Robinson hit two from the line to extend the lead to five. The closing seconds ended as you would expect, as Pitt hit its free throws to win 101-96.
Wake Forest falls 101-96 in double OT at Pittsburgh. Demon Deacons now 1-13 in the ACC. As snakebitten of a team as I've ever seen.— Jason King (@JasonKingBR) February 17, 2016
Chris Jones of Pitt led all scorers with 23 and Cornelius Hudson was the leading scorer for WF with 20 of his own. Wake Forest once again could not capitalize from the FT line and went 16-32 on the night.
It was yet another brutal loss for the Deacs in a year full of disappointment and agony. Wake’s next game is 2/21 Home against Boston College, the only team currently below WF in the ACC standings.