Pittsburgh survived a tough and close, roller coaster style game against Syracuse 72-71 to advance in the New York Life ACC Tournament. With 1:04 left in the game, Pitt’s James Robinson stole the ball from Franklin Howard and finished with a layup to break a 68-68 tie. Robinson’s steal came 40 seconds after Cuse’s Tyler Roberson stole an errand cross-court Pitt pass and dished the ball to Michael Gbinije for a game-tying dunk.
Pitt blew at 12 point lead with just over four minutes left as Gbinije, Roberson, and Malachi Richardson helped Cuse go on a 14-2 run. The Robinson steal and layup ended that run.
After the game, Robinson said of his steal, “No time to panic when Roberson got the steal, we had plenty of possessions left in the game. I just saw an opportunity to shoot the gap on defense and I took it. The ball was right there waiting for me.”
Robinson followed the layup with a jumper with 22 seconds left giving Pitt a 72-68 lead. Michael Gbinije nailed a 3 ball to cut the lead to 1. Pitt missed a front end, giving Cuse one shot with 6 seconds left but Trever Cooney’s shot missed at the buzzer.
Pitt got a career game out of freshman guard Cameron Johnson, who led the team with 24 points. He shot 8-16 and knocked down four big three’s to help push Pitt’s second half lead to 14. Robinson finished with 12 points and 4 assists.
Jamie Dixon was impressed at the game of his freshman under the bright lights, but Johnson himself wasn’t. He said “It’s just a basketball game, they are all the same, 40 minutes. If you let the moment get to you, you won’t play as well. ”
Dixon laughed at that comment by his freshman saying, “Spoken like a coach.”
The game was a nice little Big East reunion for Pitt, who finished off the season sweep of Syracuse 3-0. “We really felt at home playing Syracuse,” Dixon said after the game, adding, “Pitt-Syracuse, the rivalry, never going to be a blowout.”
It was not so nice, for Cuse. Jim Boeheim said, “I should have taken Franklin Howard out of the game,” regarding the turnover that led to the Pitt go-ahead bucket.
This game was previewed as a possible “play-in” game for the NCAA Tournament. Boeheim responded, “No comment, it’s up to them, i don’t know what they are going to do, I am not on the committee.”
Up next for Pitt is a date with top-seeded UNC tomorrow at noon.