PITTSBURGH (AP)—Dominic James regrets being on the bench with a shoulder injury during the key minutes of Pitt’s comeback victory at home against Marquette last season. He wasn’t about to miss the rematch in Pittsburgh.
James made two free throws after being fouled with less than a second remaining in overtime and No. 24 Marquette rallied after squandering an 11-point lead to surprise No. 6 Pittsburgh 77-74 on Sunday, making all 10 of its free throws in overtime.
James scored 23 points and Dan Fitzgerald and Wesley Matthews had 14 each as the Golden Eagles (17-4, 4-2) improved to 4-1 against Top 25 teams and dealt Pitt (17-3, 5-1) only its second home court loss in 30 games the last two seasons. Pitt is 0-3 against ranked teams.
“We haven’t lost a lot, and this is disappointing,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “But there’s not many times a team is going to go 10-of-10 at the line in overtime and lose.”
Ronald Ramon scored 21 points and 7-footer Aaron Gray had 16 points and nine rebounds despite sitting out the final 3 1/2 minutes of regulation, when Pitt surged back after trailing 60-51 following Fitzgerald’s two 3s. Fitzgerald also hit an important 3 during the overtime.
The Panthers, who had never led or been tied since holding a 10-9 lead, sent it to overtime on Ramon’s two free throws that made it 64-all with 3.5 seconds remaining.
Gray returned to score Pitt’s first five points of overtime, and the Panthers led as late as 74-73 after Levon Kendall made two free throws with 1:35 remaining.
But Kendall’s pass was stolen on Pitt’s next possession and James, after searching frantically for an open lane to the basket as the clock ticked down, was fouled with three defenders around him and nine-tenths of a second remaining. He made both free throws to finish 7-of-8 from the line. Matthews made two more free throws after being fouled on Pitt’s inbounds play.
Asked what was going through his mind when he stepped to the line, James said, “Ice water was going through my mind at the end. I’ve never had two free throws to win a game like that.”
Last year, James sat out for 8 1/2 minutes at Pitt following a collision with Antonio Graves, and the Panthers came back to win 77-71. Later, the Panthers were told that Marquette coach Tom Crean called them “dirty,” an allegation Crean strongly denied Sunday.
“We did an excellent job of dealing with the adversity of the game,” Crean said after his team won its third in a row on the road, on some of the Big East’s toughest home courts. “We didn’t get down mentally in overtime and found a way to win the game. Winning at Connecticut and Louisville before this helps a little bit”
Especially James, with Crean saying that his point guard wasn’t the first option on the play that led to his decisive free throws but still wound up with the ball.
“He didn’t need to be nervous at the end,” Crean said. “He makes so many big plays for us.”
James has scored 56 points as the Golden Eagles have won two of three from Pitt the last two seasons. The teams meet again March 3 in Milwaukee.
With Pitt down by nine at 60-51, coach Jamie Dixon took Gray out with 3 1/2 minutes to play to put a quicker team on the floor. The move worked as the Panthers outscored Marquette 13-4 the rest of the second half to tie it on Ramon’s free throws after James appeared to strip the ball from him.
Before that, Marquette quieted a loud, enthusiastic Pitt crowd by going on an 11-0 run over a 5-minute span of the first half to seize an 18-10 lead, causing some fans to throw giveaway towels on the floor to protest several fouls they felt weren’t called on Marquette.
Gray scored six of the Panthers’ first 10 points, only to become ineffective for long stretches after that as the Panthers had trouble getting the ball inside against Marquette’s quick defenders. Pitt had 14 turnovers midway through the second half and finished with 18.
Gray missed two days of practice with a wrist injury after he had 22 points and 19 rebounds Tuesday in a 63-54 decision over Connecticut, but Dixon didn’t felt that influenced the outcome.
“We knew we couldn’t let him score,” Jerel McNeal said. “We took him out of the game and that threw them for a loop.”
Pitt went 5-of-18 from 3-point range (27.8 percent) despite Ramon’s 4-for-6 day after entering the game shooting 46.3 percent beyond the arc in conference play. The Panthers had been 12-0 at home this season and 7-1 in its last eight home games against ranked opponents.
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