Nasir Robinson (35) goes up to score past Louisville's Preston Knowles, right, during the first half. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Jan. 16, 2010
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Nasir Robinson scored a career-high 26 points, Brad Wanamaker scored 20 and No. 16 Pittsburgh staged a frantic rally in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, then held off Louisville for an 82-77 victory Saturday that ran its winning streak to eight games.
Pitt (15-2, 5-0 Big East) won its 31st straight at the Petersen Events Center - the second-longest streak in major college basketball to Kansas' 52 - despite trailing most of the second half against the confident Cardinals.
The Panthers are 125-10 at their on-campus arena, but Louisville - the only opponent there with more than one victory - had won its previous two in Pittsburgh in 2007 and 2008.
This one hurt, too, as the Cardinals (12-6, 3-2) wasted Samardo Samuels' 25 points, six-point leads in each half and a 68-63 lead with 34 seconds remaining, mostly because they couldn't make free throws. They were 1 of 5 at the line in the final minute and 10 of 17 overall after going 39 of 45 during an 92-84 loss to Villanova on Monday.
Pitino could recall only one tougher-to-take loss - his Kentucky Wildcats' 104-103 overtime defeat to Duke on Laettner's catch-and-shoot play in a 1992 NCAA regional final that is considered one of college basketball's greatest games.
"Outside of Duke and Christian Laettner, this is the worst loss I've experienced, watching a team play so well and put itself in a position to win," Pitino said.
The Cardinals were less than 2 seconds from beating a team that was coming off consecutive road victories against No. 5 Syracuse, Cincinnati and No. 15 Connecticut.
"But I knew it wasn't over," said Pitt's Jermaine Dixon, who had three of his four field goals in overtime and made a key pass during the comeback. "I feel like we can play with anybody in the country."
Wanamaker hit a 3-pointer with 15.6 seconds remaining off Dixon's pass on an inbounds play and, after Edgar Sosa missed one of two free throws with 11.7 seconds, Wanamaker tied it by making two from the line with 1.9 seconds remaining.
"Those were the toughest I've ever had to make," said Wanamaker, who was 11 of 12 as Pitt went 24 of 30 from the line. "But I just remembered what they tell us, `Shoot 'em like you're practicing without the crowd."'
Pitino didn't like it that Jerry Smith committed a foul as Wanamaker was trying to work free for a shot.
"With that little time left, let them try to make a shot," Pitino said. "If he makes it, he makes it."
Preston Knowles added 21 points for the Cardinals, whose only losses in their last 10 games were to Pitt, No. 2 Kentucky and No. 4 Villanova. Sosa scored 13 points but was 3 of 7 at the line, all in the second half.
Robinson, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, hadn't scored more than 15 points during his two-season career before making 11 of 14 shots and adding a team-high 11 rebounds.
"As soon as I hit my first one, I felt like I was in a groove," said Robinson, who got the open shots Louisville denied Ashton Gibbs, Pitt's leading scorer.
Gibbs, who had only one basket in the first half, put the Panthers ahead for the first time since they led 49-48 by hitting a 3-pointer 53 seconds into overtime and finished with 15 points. Dixon followed with an off-balance jumper from the wing that made it 74-69.
"So many different guys made plays," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
Louisville cut it to 78-77 on Knowles' fifth 3-pointer with 25 seconds to play. Gibbs made two free throws with 16.4 to play and, after Jared Swopshire couldn't hit a desperation 3-pointer, Jermaine Dixon scored during the final second.
The Cardinals, whose starting lineup included three players who have won previously at Pitt, were the last opposing team to win there, on Feb. 24, 2008. They also upset Pitt last season in Louisville after the Panthers ascended to No. 1 in the AP poll.