George Washington's Bucky Roman deflected a pass as Pittsburgh played for the final shot and he scored the winning lay-in basket as time expired five seconds later for a 73-71 victory today.
Roman's dramatic basket gave the Colonials their only lead of this Eastern Eight basketball game. They regained the spunky play absent in a 15-point loss at West Virginia in the opener of a two-game road trip Friday night.
What caused this Pittsburgh loss was not the final play, when the Panthers failed to get off a shot from the four-corner alignment for the second time this afternoon. Impatience beat them, after they opened a seven-point lead, 62-55, with 5:56 to play.
GW exploited this weakness beautifully, with Tom Glenn and Mike Zagardo devastating the Panthers inside.The Colonials caught up for the first time at 65, and also deadlocked Pitt at 67, 69 and 71 in their next three possessions.
When Roman hit a 12-foot jumper following successive offensive rebounds by Glenn and Zagardo with 49 seconds left, Pitt coach Tim Grgurich signaled his team to play for the final shot.
GW, which played man-to-man defense for most part today, sat back in a zone, offering only token opposition as the Fitzgerald Fieldhouse clock ticked off to 15 seconds, with Pitt's Pete Strickland, former De Matha High guard, controlling the ball.
This was the stage at which Strickland wanted to start the play. But the Panthers continued passing the ball outside, as they had at the end of the first half. Finally with nine seconds left Strickland dribbled forward.
"With 10 seconds left I should have called a double screen for Larry (Harris, pitt's pro prospect shooting forward)," Strickland said. "But I decided to penetrate and get the shot myself or pass off."
As Tom Tate guarded him, Strickland spotted Harris to his right, with Roman guarding him. Roman, a sophomore guard from West Springfield High, reacted by cutting off Strickland 's passing lane.
"It was a matter of execution really," said Strickland, "It was the same thing at the end of the first half. We didn't execute right."
Roman deflected the pass and Tate picked it up. And that started the finish that halted a recent GW slump and sent the Colonials home with a 6-4 record, 1-2 in the league.
Tate's pass toward teammate Bob Lindsay was deflected by Strickland. Lindsay, however, broke for the ball and batted it toward Roman, with Pitt guard Sonny Lewis trying to catch up.
"They waited too long before they stared to run their play," said Lindsay. "So we didn't have that much time. The only thing I could do was push it ahead to Bucky. It went right by the side of Lewis head."
Roman was almost direcly beneath the basket when he put up his shot. Lewis went up and got a piece of it. At this point, referee Bob Covert, at midcourt, put up his hand with two fingers raised, signaling and goal-tending. The ball hung on the rim, as the clock showed 0:00, and then dropped through the net.
"I was going for the dramatic down there," said a happy Roman afterward.
He should be happy. Roman was a part-time starter as a freshman, but has played only 61 minutes this season before this road trip. The Colonials need outside shooting from their guards, so when Bob Lindsay would not put up the ball against West Virginia, Roman played the final 1 minutes.
He played 6 minutes today scoring 13 points behind Glenn's 24 and Zagardo's 16. Coach Bob Tallent ahd two reasons for using Roman: team captain and small forward Les Anderson is slumping, and Tallent wanted two shooting guards in the game in addition to non-shooting playmaker Tate.
"All you have to say is that we're going home to play now," said Anderson, the team captain and only senior starter.
The Colonials will play eight of their next 11 games at Smith Center. Going into today's game, they had dropped three of four since beating Maryland, 101-90, in their previous home game Dec. 10.
"This win means a whole lot," Lindsay said. "This was almost like a must game for us, we've messed up so much on the road. It was a confidence-builder, and we're psyched up now."
Pitt, with Harris suffering through a five-for 15 shooting day, now is 6-4, 1-1 in the Eastern Eight. Freshman Sam Clancy led the Panthers with 17 points and 10 rebounds.