In a season of last-second shots that beat the Panthers, their woes continued Saturday night in the third round of the NCAA Tournament game against Butler, but this time it was not a game-ending last-second shot, but a season-ending last second shot.
Matt Howard sunk a free throw with less than a second left to vault the Bulldogs over the Panthers 71-70 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. and cap a wild last ten seconds of the game.
“We’ve had a few losses this year, not a lot, but they’ve all been disappointing,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “We didn’t lose it on one play. We lost through the entire game.”
Pitt was up one point but turned the ball over on a shot clock violation, their twelfth turnover of the game. It gave the Bulldogs the ball back with ten seconds left and a chance to win the game. Andrew Smith scored a lay-up to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead with two seconds left.
Pitt in-bounded the ball in a furious attempt to get a shot off, but Gilbert Brown was fouled with a second left on the clock. He went to the free throw line with a chance to win the game if he made both free throws.
He sank the first to tie the game at 70-70, but the second rattled off the rim and bounced out. Howard pulled in the rebound for the Bulldogs and Nasir Robinson reached around him and was called for a foul with one-tenth of a second on the clock to send Howard to the line for the game-winning free throw.
“That last two and a half seconds everything could have been avoided if I make a free throw and Nasir doesn’t foul,” Brown said. “It’s just the way it went.”
Pitt fell behind by twelve points midway through the first half. Butler shot lights-out and took a 38-30 lead at the break. The Panthers clawed their way back in the second half and were in a position to win the game in the final minute but could not close the deal.
Butler guard Shelvin Mack was almost un-stoppable. He scored 30 points including 7-12 from three-point range. The Bulldogs sank 12 three-pointers compared to only six for the Panthers.
“They’re a very great defensive team. Last night I asked one of the coaches for some film when they played UConn, how they were guarding Kemba Walker,” Mack said. “I noticed they were there a lot on the catch but they really didn’t have a presence on the ball. So I took that into consideration today.”
Pitt was paced by Brown who scored 24 including four-for-five from three-point range. Ashton Gibbs, Pitt’s leading scorer, was held to 11 points including only one-for-one from three-point range.
“A loss is a loss, regardless of the outcome. It comes down to the plays that we didn’t make in the game, whether it be on buzzer-beater or the free-throw at the end. It hurts all same, and it hurts even more because it’s our last game,” Brown said. “We know we’ll never be able to put the jersey on again and go out there and play with our teammates. Everybody on the team is like family, so this being the last game really — is really an emotional blow to us.”
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