I've got to admit to doing two things I normally don't -
First, down 5 with about 30 seconds left, I started to write the 'eulogy' about how Pitt lost a close game and had simply been outplayed just a bit. Not so much because the lead was insurmountable at that point. It just 'felt' like it wasn't Pitt's day. Normally, I have a pretty good radar for this type of stuff.
But not today.
Second, I visited two live game threads/message boards - one Pitt, one Louisville. It was amazing to me how both sides were so adamant the refs were out to get them. Personally, it felt like an evenly-called game to me up until the last bit of regulation and OT. It seemed like Louisville really got the benefit of the doubt on several calls: The Samardo Samuels non-charge call (especially since the refs had been so quick to call Pitt for charges early on), Edgar Sosa getting bailed out on the layup as replays clearly showed he traveled before being fouled, Samuels grabbing the arm of Wanamaker in OT and not getting called for it, and perhaps the most egregious, the non-call near the end of regulation on the Ashton Gibbs three-point attempt. Does anyone seriously think that someone as accurate as Gibbs would short a shot THAT much?
Anyway, I'm not even so much blaming the refs on those. I think they were determined to 'let them play' and swallow their whistles. I just think Louisville was more physical on those plays and, thus, got the benefit of the calls.
It's amazing how much sports can pump you up. Not that I wasn't interested in this game, but I thought Pitt had a good chance to lose this one and perhaps, braced for the worst. I watched the game, but wasn't overly emotional when Pitt got behind (and was behind for most of it). But the feeling after tying it in regulation then coming out strong in OT was unbelievable.
Okay, so, the game.
Well, it was a good one. For starters, if you missed it, Pitt won 82-77 in OT. All you have to do is look at the vaunted game flow chart and you can see it was a close game all the way through. No team had a lead larger than six points and while Louisville led for much of the game, it never really felt like Pitt was really out of it.
The thing about this Pitt team is that different guys continue to step up. Ashton Gibbs had a crappy day shooting the ball today (4-12 / 15 points). Gil Brown for some reason was a non-factor and ended up with zero points. But someone else stepped up. Big time.
Enter Nasir Robinson - the type of player that really embodies Pitt when you think about it. Not the most talented guy, but showed he can play well when needed. 26 of the most efficient points you'll ever see (11-14 from the field 4-6 FTs) and 11 rebounds (more than double of any other Pitt player).
Brad Wanamaker's been doing it for most of the year, but started off kind of slow in the Big East. He'll get kind of lost in the Nasir Robinson talk, but Wanamaker was just as important. He added 20 big points today and without his late three-pointer and two clutch free throws at the end of regulation, we're sitting here talking about a loss.
Free throws - without a doubt, the biggest game-changer today. Usually, when that's said, it's a bad thing for Pitt. But the Panthers are getting increasingly better at free throws and are starting to shake off that terrible reputation for missing them. Wanamaker 11-12, Gibbs 4-4, Taylor 3-4, Robinson 4-6 - they really shot well from the line today. Pitt shot 24-30 from the line to Louisville's 10-17.
The press turned out to not be a big factor. Louisville did use it, but only at times, and for the most part, Pitt had no trouble with it.
On the flipside, Samardo Samuels was no joke - 25/5. Preston Knowles also played well for Louisville. I was surprised to see him not get the last look near the end of OT for the three, but maybe Pitt's defense had him covered.
Today's joke of the day was when Reginald Delk fouled out and was headed to the bench. He received the obligatory 'left-right' chant as he headed back to the bench and faked sitting down as the Zoo said 'sit down'. By the way, if you've never heard this/seen this at the Pete, bear with me. He then sat down again and the crowd yelled 'sit down' a second time. He had a smile on his face and was chatting with a few teammates. Funny stuff. I'm always curious as to how much the players pay attention to the fans.
Here's a nice link to some sweet AP game photos.
Strong win for Pitt, but the end of this labyrinth is not yet in sight. Next up - Georgetown.