Pitt wanted nothing more than to keep its three-game losing streak in the past after losses to No. 9 Virginia, No. 12 Miami and No. 9 North Carolina in the span of a week. A matchup with Wake Forest, the current tenants of the Atlantic Coast Conference basement, seemed to provide the perfect opportunity for the Panthers to win easily and move on with their season.
Instead, Pitt needed two extra periods to outlast the Demon Deacons. But behind Chris Jones' career-high 23 points, Pitt beat Wake Forest 101-96 in double-overtime Tuesday to end its three-game skid.
"We didn’t play great but we outworked," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. "We didn’t make shots but we battled and we competed."
James Robinson posted 22 points and 10 rebounds for Pitt (18-7, 7-6 Atlantic Coast Conference). Jamel Artis and Michael Young chipped in 19 points apiece.
Cornelius Hudson scored 22 points to lead Wake Forest (10-16, 1-13 ACC). Bryant Crawford finished with 20 points, Codi Miller-McIntyre had 18 and Konstantinos Mitoglou added 13 for the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning said the difference of the game for him was the Panthers' offensive rebounding as they hauled in 26 boards on the offensive glass. The Demon Deacons pulled down 26 rebounds defensively and 35 total Tuesday night.
"The biggest stat of the game is offensive rebounds," Manning said. "We hold them to a fairly decent field goal percentage defensively and we shoot 50 percent, I look at those three categories as our undoing tonight."
Robinson scored seven points in the second overtime to lead Pitt to victory. Hudson's 3-pointer gave the Demon Deacons a 89-88 lead before Artis and Sheldon Jeter scored on back-to-back trips and the Panthers held the lead for good.
"James was big and it was good to see those shots go in down the stretch," Dixion said. "He did a terrific job and [I'm] proud of him."
The Panthers entered Tuesday's game in desperate need of a victory to maintain their NCAA Tournament hopes after three consecutive losses to ranked teams.
Wake Forest's losing streak extended to 11 games as the Demon Deacons last won on Jan. 10 against North Carolina State.
"They all sting," Manning said. "Losing sucks, there’s no other way to put it."
Pitt led 15-14 after the first six minutes behind three 3-pointers by Jones but allowed the Demon Deacons to shoot 6 of 9 from the field to start the game. Wake Forest took a 22-15 lead after Crawford scored eight points in 50 seconds out of the ttimeout.
The Demon Deacons continued their hot shooting and their lead peaked at 30-21.
Pitt held Wake Forest scoreless for more than four minutes to get back into the game. The Panthers used a 13-2 run to tie the game at 33 with 1:30 left in the half on Jones' fourth 3-pointer from the corner.
Young scored for the first time with 22 seconds remaning to give Pitt a 35-33 halftime lead.
Wake Forest cut Pitt's advantage to a point in the first minutes out of halftime. The Panthers responded and went up by double-digits after a pair of and-one plays by Young to lead 56-46.
But the Demon Deacons refused to yield and held Pitt scoreless for nearly five minutes. Wake Forest went on a 10-0 run in the meantime and tied the game at 56 with 7:29 left in the game.
Pitt continued to struggled from the field and a 1 of 13 shooting skid hampered the Panthers, as did a 2 for 6 effort from the free throw line in that span. The Demon Deacons capitalized to take a 68-63 lead with 3:39 to play.
The Panthers held Wake Forest scoreless for the next two minutes and Ryan Luther tipped in Robinson's 3-point miss for a late 69-68 lead. After Devin Thomas tied the game at 69 with a free throws, Mitoglou and Robinson traded 3-pointers and regulation ended with the scored tied 72-72.
"We were just going to take whatever we got," Robinson said of his late 3-pointer. "Chris came up with a big offensive board and he got it to me in the right spot."
The lead changed hands throughout overtime until Hudson's 3-pointer with a minute to play put Wake Forest up 82-81. Luther missed a pair of free throws with 9.6 seconds remaning and, after the Demon Deacons called timeout, Robinson stole the inbounds pass and made a free throw to force another overtime period.