I have covered Pitt since 2003 and was witness to those memorable comebacks during the 2009-10 season. The Panthers came from seven down in the final minute to beat West Virginia in three overtimes. They came from five down in the final minute against Louisville and won in overtime.
What I witnessed tonight might have been more impressive. Pitt was down by 18 with 11:35 remaining against Oakland University and somehow managed to win, 72-62, in overtime at the Petersen Events Center. As I sit here and type this, I still have a hard time believing they found a way to this one off.
Oakland helped of course just as West Virginia and Louisville helped. There were turnovers, missed foul shots and some general panicking going on.
But you have to credit Pitt for putting the Golden Grizzlies in position to fold.
“When think about it the West Virginia game was a much longer game and much more exhausting,” Woodall said. “With this new team we have a bunch of young players and this shows we have character. We didn’t shoot well at all. We didn’t defend well at all. The one thing we did do was fight and show character.”
This was a character game and no one showed more character than freshman point guard James Robinson, who drained two foul shots with 10 seconds remaining after stealing an inbounds pass. This game-changing plays came four seconds after he was called for traveling.
“It all started when I traveled,” Robinson said. “After that I was feeling bad. The only way I could make up for it was making that play. It wasn’t even my man. I just went after it.”
It was the largest halftime deficit overcome in school history. The only better second-half comeback was when the Panthers came back from 22 down in victory against Purdue in 1960.
And it left Oakland coach Greg Kampe stunned afterward.
"This is a very, very hard moment for us because you come to Pitt, you go against a guy who is considered one of the top coaches in the country, you go against a program that’s considered one of the best programs in the country in a building that they just don’t lose in, we should have won the game,” he said. “There’s no one in this room that can tell me we shouldn’t have. We should have won the game. For 37 minutes we were by far the best team on the floor and for the final three minutes, I don’t know what happened. I’ll take all the blame for it. We kind of collapsed. I guess we good-coached teams don’t collapse. I’ll take all the blame for it. I feel very bad for my players because this is the type of game they carry with them for the rest of their life. We weren’t able to finish it. It’s a very, very disappointing time for us."
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