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March 17, 2007It was a tale of two halves and then some, but the Pitt Panthers earned a 84-79 overtime win over a pesky Virginia Commonwealth team. The game came down to key three-pointers from Levance Fields and Ronald Ramon, with some clutch and not-so-clutch free throws to add some tension.
As time ticked away in regulation, Sam Young made it a 69-69 game with a layup against the press, which had been causing problems for the Panthers all night. The Panthers had a shot to win it with 2.1 seconds remaining, but Fields missed both free throws, and Pitt fans everywhere could sense the peril, as it appeared free throws would ultimately spell the Panthers' doom.
In the overtime, despite a shaky three-point performance in the second-half, the Panthers got key three-pointers from Fields and Ramon. Ramon's second three-pointer put the Panthers up 78-71, and they eventually finished off VCU thanks to free throws from Young and Mike Cook.
"Sam Young is Sam Young," Pitt assistant Orlando Antigua said after the game. "He has ice water running through his veins. When it was his turn of the (free throws), he just stood there with his hands on his sides. That's typical Sam Young. Nothing fazes that kid."
Young led all Panthers with 15 points. He was one of five Panthers in double-figures, along with Fields who scored 10, Ramon and Cook with 12, and Aaron Gray who had 14. It's the second game in a row the Panthers got points from their bench players, as they outscored Wright State and Virginia Commonwealth's bench by a combined score of 64-32. Gray led the Panthers with five assists, while Levon Kendall led the team with three blocked shots.
Pitt had a halftime lead of 41-26, and led by as many as 19, at 51-32, with 12:50 to play, but Virginia Commonwealth went on a 30-14 run in the second half, boosted by 23 points off turnovers. Jesse Pellot-Rosa, who led the Rams in scoring in the first round against Duke, scored 20 points, all in the second half. Thankfully for the Panthers, the Rams used all their energy coming back to tie, as the Panthers outscored Virginia Commonwealth 15-10 in the overtime period.
This game was scary for many reasons. Virginia Commonwealth knocked off perennial power Duke in the first round. In addition, the Rams are from the same conference as 2006 Cinderella team George Mason Also, the Rams are a team that can run and like to press, and they forced several turnovers by pressing, causing constant anxious moments for Panther players and fans.
Pitt advances to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in school history, where they will play the winner of the UCLA-Indiana game.
Tony Greco can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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