As much as the Pittsburgh Panthers have struggled offensively in critical losses to the Virginia Cavaliers, Syracuse Orange and the Cincinnati Bearcats, the Panthers didn’t figure to have such problems on Saturday afternoon at home against ACC doormats Virginia Tech. However, Pittsburgh failed to break 30 points in either half and only scored four points in the first overtime, before finally getting a handle on things and beating the Hokies 62-57 in double overtime.
Pittsburgh standout senior Lamar Patterson was a big reason of the Panthers’ offensive struggles, finishing just 1-for-9 from the field and scoring only five points. However, in an encouraging sign for the Panthers, the starting backcourt tandem of James Robinson and Cameron Wright carried Pittsburgh offensively and showed that despite earlier struggles this season, the Panthers do have multiple offensive weapons to count on in future big games.
Wright led Pittsburgh (20-4, 8-3 ACC) with 18 points, while also adding six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Robinson scored 16 points and also contributed in other ways, finishing with four rebounds, four steals and three assists.
According to the game broadcast, Patterson was struggling with a hand injury throughout Saturday’s game. He finished just 1-for-9 from the field and didn’t score at all until there was one minute and 28 seconds left in the first overtime, when he hit a pair of free throws that gave Pitt a two-point lead. He also hit a free throw with 22 seconds left that put the Panthers up by three points, and the Hokies never scored again.
Wright had no such issues getting on the board. Perhaps knowing that Patterson wasn’t going to be able to score much, but that he had to be out there in order for the Panthers’ offense to run effectively, Wright took command early with a pair of 3-pointers in the first four minutes of the game. Robinson followed his lead and hit one as well, setting the tone that Virginia Tech (8-15, 1-10 ACC) was going to have to do more than simply stop Patterson if it hoped to pull the massive upset.
It was Robinson then who made the biggest play of the game in regulation, converting a four-point play with 36 seconds left that tied the game at 48 — and that was the score at the end of regulation.
Wright hit four clutch free throws in the second overtime as Pittsburgh pulled away. The Panthers can’t afford Patterson to be off his game for very long. Pittsburgh hosts top-ranked and undefeated Syracuse on Wednesday night, then travels to resurgent North Carolina three days later.
Coming off home losses to Duke and Virginia, the Panthers can’t afford to lose any more ground in the ACC, and getting offense from players like Wright and Robinson will be critical to whatever success Pittsburgh has the rest of the regular season and beyond.