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Updated 2 hours ago
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A 12-point halftime lead just wasn't enough for Pitt on Wednesday as the Panthers stumbled through the second half en route to a 63-59 road loss at Wake Forest to drop to 15-13 overall and 4-11 in ACC play.
With just three games remaining in the regular season, an NCAA Tournament berth may be a far cry for Pitt.
“We're bitterly disappointed to have lost this game,” Kevin Stallings said after the game. “We didn't have that finishing mentality.”
The second half was marked by Michael Young, the leading scorer in the ACC, stuck on the bench with four fouls and abysmal 3-point shooting by Pitt.
After making six shots from deep in the first half, the Panthers went 1 of 11 from 3-point range in the second half, continuing a troubling trend.
The Panthers have made at least five 3-pointers in the first half of four consecutive games and made 25 of 39 (51.0 percent) first-half attempts. But Pitt is 10 of 35 (28.6 percent) on second-half 3-point attempts over that stretch.
“I don't know what the problem is at this point,” sophomore Cameron Johnson said of Pitt's second-half struggles. “We had the balance with the second team in the first half. This just isn't a good look.”
The teams traded 8-0 runs to open the game.
Pitt jumped ahead with 3-pointers from Jamel Artis and Young, and Wake Forest's run included a pair of monster dunks by John Collins.
Over the next 10 minutes, Pitt went on a 22-7 march to open up a 30-15 lead with 5:42 left in the half.
Young stayed hot with 17 first-half points, and Collins cooled with just four more points in the half after scoring six of Wake Forest's first eight.
Despite missing their final five field-goal attempts of the half, the Panthers took a 36-24 lead into halftime.
The Panthers haven't trailed at halftime since losing to North Carolina on Jan. 31.
Wake Forest (16-12, 10-9 ACC) showed periodic signs of life in the second half and took advantage of a prime window when Young notched his fourth foul with 14:02 left. Collins picking up his third foul two minutes later didn't help, but the Demon Deacons moved to within three points with Young off the floor for more than eight minutes.
“We got in some bad lineups there when Mike got in foul trouble,” Stallings said. “We're not nearly as good of an offensive team when you take 20 points per game off the floor for us. We put ourself in a box.”
Young checked back in to the with 5:53 remaining and Pitt up 52-49. He made a pair of free throws a minute later before Stallings promptly pulled him from the game for the ensuing defensive possession.
Wake Forest's Austin Arians made a 3 to shrink Pitt's lead to 57-56, forcing Stallings to call a timeout with 2:59 remaining.
Bryant Crawford tied the score 57-57 with a free throw 30 seconds later, but his second attempt rimmed out.
Collins grabbed a crucial offensive board on Wake's next possession and followed with a layin and a foul. His free throw missed, but the basket gave Wake its first lead at 59-57 with 1:36 to play.
A pair of Sheldon Jeter free throws were answered by two more misses from Collins.
Jamel Artis was trapped on the offensive end for Pitt before turning the ball over to set up another rebound and putback from Collins for a 61-59 Wake lead with 18 seconds left.
A Young 3-point attempt ricocheted out of bounds off a Wake player, but Pitt turned it over on the ensuing inbounds play, allowing Wake to ice the 63-59 win from the free-throw line in the final five seconds.
Young led all scorers with 24 points on 7-of-14 shooting, and Collins paced Wake Forest with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Both played 28 minutes.
Pitt returns home Saturday to host No. 8 North Carolina on senior night.
“We've lost big games this entire league play. These guys have been pretty good about bouncing back,” Stallings said. “Hopefully they'll want to have a big game for the seniors.”
Saturday's tipoff is noon at Petersen Events Center.
Travis Durkee is a freelance writer.
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