Pitt decided to honor its senior class prior to tip-off today, not for next Monday's regular season home finale with N.C. State.
It ended up being a game that seniors Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, as well as the rest of the team, would like to forget. Florida State knocked off the Panthers, 71-66, all of a sudden putting Pitt's postseason opportunities in question.
Pitt drops to 20-7 overall, losers of five of their last seven games, 8-6 in the ACC. Florida State improves to 16-11 overall, 7-8 in conference play.
"We didn't come out and do it offensively in this game," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "The free throws in the second half, that weighed on us when you keep missing and they are knocking down free throws. They beat us at the free throw line. The only thing that stands out is that we out rebounded them. At the same time, with the 14 offense rebounds we didn't seem to get the finishes or baskets to go with it. Give Florida State credit, for coming in and getting the win, but we have to go get it right against Boston College."
Patterson led Pitt with 22 points, followed by 13 from Cameron Wright. The Seminoles had a trifecta of players in double-figures, led by Okaro White with 22, Ian Miller with 19 and Aaron Thomas with 14.
"I think everything we did was on our own," Patterson said. "We just missed shots and didn't guard as well. Everything was on us, not on too much of what they did."
In addition to his 22 points, Patterson added five assists and eight rebounds. He needs just nine more assists to become the third player in school history to finish with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists.
Pitt has struggled with rebounding in this seven-game stretch, yet they held a slim 36-33 edge on the boards. Sunday's game was about lack of offense, lack of timely shooting and turnovers. This as the case for both teams, who both went in long scoring droughts, twice in each half.
That, and a difference in free throw shooting between the two teams. Florida State was 27-31 from the free throw line, Pitt 18-28.
"They only missed four free throws and we missed ten," Wright said. "If you put that together, we win the ball game."
Things didn't start off great for Pitt. The Panthers missed their first three shots of the game. Florida State took advantage, jumping out to a 5-0 lead.
Pitt battled back to tie it at 7-7, thanks to a three-pointer from James Robinson. They would have gained the lead on the previous possession, when Zanna had a dunk off a feed from Patterson. The basket was waved off when Zanna was called for a charge.
Pitt then took a 10-7 lead on another three-pointer from Robinson. After taking that early 5-0 lead, Florida State converted just one of its next five shots, along with four turnovers. That allowed Pitt to get back in the game, and eventually take the lead.
The Seminoles regained the lead, 16-14, following a 9-4 run, including three baskets on three consecutive possessions.
Cameron Wright finished off an alley oop from Patterson, tying it back up at 16-16. Unfortunately, that's as close as Pitt would get to the lead for the rest of the first half. Over the next four minutes, the Panthers went just 1-5 from the field, with two turnovers.
A dunk from Boris Bojanovsky gave Florida State a commanding 27-19 lead, forcing Jamie Dixon to call timeout.
The Seminoles led by as many as 10 in the first half, 29-19. Pitt made a couple threats late in the first half. They got five quick points--a drive from Patterson, a three-point play from Jamel Artis. That cut the Florida State lead to 29-24.
At the two-minute mark, Zanna converted a pair of free throws, followed by a no-look pass from Patterson to a wide-open Wright. That kept it close, at 34-28. Robinson hit a three-pointer to make it a 34-31 deficit, with 25 seconds in the half. Aaron Thomas hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Florida State a 37-31 lead at halftime.
"We tried to hold our own on the boards or at least limit the amount of high-percentage shots they got in that offense," Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "Tonight's game had an ebb and flow to it that didn't allow us to get much of a cushion going into the half."
Florida State got some big contributions from Miller, who had 12 points in the first half, and Miller with seven. Pitt was able to keep it close late in the first half, thanks to shooting 4-5 from the field with just one turnover in the final five minutes.
Pitt started off 2-4 shooting in the second half, but they could not slow down Miller, who scored three of the first five Seminole points to start the second half. Florida State led 42-36, five minutes in.
Pitt could have cut in to that a little bit, but started 1-5 from the free throw line. Finally, Wright changed that pattern, converting both free throws in his first trip to the line of the half. Pitt cut the Florida State lead to 42-38, at the 14:00 mark.
Wright then hit a jumper to make it a 42-40 Florida State lead. A pair of free throws from Zanna tied the game at 42-42.
In addition to the reversal of fortune at the free throw line, Pitt held Florida State without a field goal for a span of seven and a half minutes. The Seminoles went 0-8 from the field during that stretch.
Despite all that, Pitt still couldn't get the lead. The Seminoles got back-to-back dunks from White, holding a 46-42 lead at the under-10 mark.
Pitt clawed back again. A three-pointer from Chris Jones in the corner cut it to a 48-47 lead at the 7:00 mark.
Again, Pitt could not gain the lead. White hit a pair of free throws from the line. Bojanovsky later added a tip-in, and Thomas went 1-2 from the line. Florida State led 53-48 with 4:25 left.
No matter what Pitt did, Florida State was always able to hold on to the lead.
Wright ended a scoring drought for Pitt with a layup, cutting it to a three-point deficit, 53-50, with four minutes left. That ended a span of over three minutes without a field goal for Pitt. With time ticking away, and possessions becoming longer, Pitt was just 0-2 with one turnover during the stretch. It showed how much very possession mattered, but also how every wasted possession hurt each team.
Pitt tried to be as patient as it could on its next possession. Patterson launched a desperation three-pointer with the shot clock winding down. Luckily, Wright was there for the rebound. He fed Patterson, who was driving to the basket, who then finished it off with a reverse layup. Pitt trailed by only three, 55-52.
Who else but White, to answer for Florida State. He had a desperation three-pointer of his own, from the corner, right as the shot clock hit :00. Florida State led 58-52, now approaching two minutes left in the game.
Patterson cut that led to 58-54, as he converted a pair of free throws with 2:01 left.
Miller was fouled on the next Florida State possession. Like Patterson, he converted both of his shots, putting his team up 60-54 with 1:39 left.
Patterson hit a three from the corner to cut the deficit back to three, 60-57. Dixon called a quick 30-second timeout. Out of the timeout, Pitt pressured the in bounds pass. Zanna fouled White with 1:14 left. White converted both free throws, making at a 62-57 lead.
Trying to answer quickly, Wright's layup was blocked by White. Florida State came down with the ball, adding to their lead with a couple more free throws, clinching the win.
It was a good thing, to, as Patterson added a trio of three-pointers in the final minute of the game to keep Pitt close.
"We need to execute better on offense," Wright said. "The game is simple. We are making it difficult on ourselves and taking tougher shots. That comes with practice. There are little things that we need to work on that will help us throughout the game."