Wake Forest shoots Pitt out of its winning streak
Pitt’s first four-game conference winning streak since 2014 will have to wait, as the Panthers’ run of victories was snapped on Saturday night with a 75-76 loss at Wake Forest.
Pitt entered the game with a 4-1 ACC record after notching three wins over Syracuse and Duke, whereas the Deacons came in without a conference win. But what the records - and the season-long stats - didn’t predict was Wake Forest’s three-point shooting, as the Deacons made a living beyond the arc to knock of the Panthers.
After shooting 32.9% from three in its first nine games, Wake Forest was on fire Saturday night. The Deacons hit 15-of-32 from deep against Pitt, led by sophomore forward Ismael Massoud, who shot 8-of-10 from deep for 31 points.
Pitt actually played quite well in the first half, shooting 61.5% from the floor, hitting 4-of-8 from three, knocking down all nine of its free throw attempts and outrebounding Wake Forest 15-8.
But the Deacons couldn’t miss in the initial 20 minutes. Ismael Massoud had 17 first-half points on a perfect 5-of-5 from beyond the arc, and Wake Forest went 8-of-15 on long-range shots to account for more than half of its 38 points.
Despite that performance, which included a buzzer-beating three-pointer, the Deacons still co8ludn’t get closer than seven points at halftime.
The Deacons didn’t let up in the second half, though. As Pitt’s shooting slumped, Wake Forest kept draining the bombs. In the first 10 minutes of the half, the Deacons hit 5-of-10 from three to take their first lead, using a 23-5 run to build a 63-57 advantage on the scoreboard.
To further complicate matters, Pitt got into foul trouble in the second half. The Panthers committed their seventh foul of the half with just under nine minutes to play, sending a 76% free throw team to the line for the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, Pitt couldn’t help its own cause at the stripe, hitting just 7-of-14 from the free throw line in the second half.
Still, the Panthers kept fighting. After falling behind 75-65 with 4:49 left in the game, Pitt went on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to three with two minutes to play. Then, with less than 10 seconds on the clock, Xavier Johnson sank a layup to get the score to 76-75, and Pitt’s defense responded by forcing a turnover with just four seconds remaining.
But Johnson’s would-be buzzer-beater bounced off the rim, and the Panthers lost for the first time since December.
Pitt star forward Justin Champagnie paced the Panthers with 17 points and eight rebounds, but he was fairly quiet in the second half and none of his rebounds were on the offensive glass. Sophomore center Abdoul Karim Coulibaly scored a career-high 15 points, Johnson added 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting and junior Au’Diese Toney had 11 points but didn’t have any free throws after attempting 17 in Tuesday’s win over Duke.
The loss drops Pitt to 8-3 overall and 4-2 in the ACC. The Panthers will host North Carolina on Tuesday night at 7 pm.