PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh’s Michael Young and Jamel Artis had Virginia Coach Tony Bennett in an unfamiliar spot Wednesday night. Bennett, the architect of the top-rated defense in the nation, found his team helpless in trying to defend the pair of seniors.
They were bigger, stronger and more experienced than the four-guard lineup Bennett deployed in hopes of matching the Panthers’ scoring advantage. There was nothing much Bennett could do but hope.
“It was one of those games where you were hoping they miss shots,” Bennett said after Virginia’s 88-76 overtime loss to Pittsburgh at Petersen Events Center. “That’s not a good feeling.”
Pittsburgh (12-3, 1-1 ACC) broke its seven-game losing streak against No. 11 Virginia (11-3, 1-2) behind Artis’s game-high 24 points. A game after Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon made six three-pointers on the way to 26 second-half points to beat Virginia in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers were still unable to find a suitable perimeter defender. Artis made 6 of 7 from beyond the arc, including all three of his second-half attempts.
Young added 19 points in a tight contest that left Bennett unsparing in his criticism of his once-vaunted defense.
“We’re not a talented defense right now,” Bennett said.
Virginia had struggled all night to contain Artis and Young. The Cavaliers’ best hope at times appeared to try to match them, which senior point guard London Perrantes did with a three-pointer with less than three seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime tied at 70.
In the extra period, however, the Cavaliers ran out of answers. The Panthers scored the first nine points of overtime — on three consecutive three-pointers.
Virginia’s Darius Thompson made a jumper to cut the deficit to seven with 2:30 remaining, but that was as close as the Cavaliers would get.
Bennett knew the Artis-Young tandem would be difficult to stop entering the game. It was one reason he gave freshman sharp shooter Kyle Guy — averaging a team-high 11.5 points through two ACC contests entering Wednesday — his first career start.
But the lineup change was for naught. The rookie endured a chorus of loud boos every time he touched the ball and made just 1 of 7 field goal attempts to log his lowest-scoring game since an 11-minute outing against Ohio State in November. He scored just two then as well.
Virginia’s fate wound up in the hands of its most experienced player instead.
Perrantes led five Cavaliers in double figures with 16 points, including three three-pointers, all of which came in the second half. Junior guard Devon Hall had 15 points and a team-high nine rebounds, and Marial Shayok added 14 points off the bench.
But Perrantes didn’t score after his three-pointer to force overtime. Pittsburgh’s Sheldon Jeter sank two three-pointers to start the extra period, then Artis added his final three of the night to give the Panthers a nine-point cushion with 2:45 left on the clock.
The game was tight up until overtime, with seven lead changes in total, despite that Virginia trailed for the majority. Wednesday was Pittsburgh’s second overtime game in a row. The Panthers lost, 78-77, to Notre Dame on New Year’s Eve, but this time were sound enough to hold on to a lead.
On paper, rebounds hurt the Cavaliers most — Bennett often played a small-ball lineup with four guards in an effort to get his offense running, seceding size matchups to the Panthers. As a result, Pittsburgh outrebounded Virginia 21-8 in the first half and had 14 second-chance points to the Cavaliers’ two.
They ended the game outrebounding Virginia 42-24.
Virginia took its first lead of the second half with just under seven minutes to play, after Thompson notched a driving layup and Mamadi Diakite blocked Pittsburgh’s Justice Kithcart on the other end. Thompson kicked the rebound back to Shayok for another aggressive layup and the Cavaliers led 56-55.
Hall’s three-pointer, Virginia’s sixth consecutive made field goal, put the Cavaliers ahead 61-58 just about a minute later.
Artis’s fifth three-pointer of the night changed the lead for the seventh time.