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Panthers enjoy victories in Pittsburgh before losing in Kentucky at the Sweet 16
What a weekend it was for the Pitt Panthers with two exciting NCAA tournament victories in front of a home crowd earning Pitt its first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1974.
The afternoon of March 15 began with a 71-54 Pitt victory over 14th seeded Central Connecticut St. It was a national showcase for Big East Player of the Year Brandin Knight who scored 17 points, dished out 9 assists, and was credited with 5 steals (even though the whole arena knew his total was much higher).
The Blue Devils came into the game on a 19-game win streak, all of the wins against Northeast Conference teams. Central Connecticut State fought hard and pushed their deficit to 43-40 with 9:34 remaining, but they would not get any closer.
The Panthers outscored the Blue Devils 28-14 the rest of the way, including an 8-0 run that increased the Pitt lead to 51-40. The Panthers put the game away on a highlight reel windmill dunk by Sophomore Julius Page.
The win earned the Panthers a berth in the Second Round against 6th seeded California, who was an 82-75 winner over Penn in the opening round.
Pitt held California without a point for 9:30 during a game-breaking 16-0 run, and the Panthers moved into the Sweet 16 with a 63-50 victory. Julius Page led the way for Pitt scoring 17 points and grabbing 8 rebounds.
Pitt’s stifling defense forced the Golden Bears to shoot 31 percent from the field and commit 16 turnovers.
Pitt impressed Cal Coach Ben Braun, “They're not afraid to throw their bodies around, it seemed like every time we were going for a ball, they were more aggressive and physical.”
The Panthers next opponent was the Kent St. Golden Flashes who were too much for Pitt as the Golden Flashes beat them 78-73 in overtime. The loss in Lexington, Kentucky closed out arguably the most successful season in Panther history.
Pitt had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds of regulation, but Brandin Knight passed up a one-on-one opportunity going to the hoop. Instead of shooting Knight passed the basketball out to Page, who missed a desperation three-point shot.
Page and Knight both scored 18 points to lead the Panthers and sophomore Antonio Gates scored a game high 22 points for the Golden Flashes.
"They did an excellent job defensively," Pitt coach Ben Howland said. "I don't think we ever really bounced back after the turnovers we had in the first half. You've got to give Kent State a lot of credit."
Panthers lose to Kent St Golden Flashes 78-73 during a thrilling overtime game in Kentucky's Rupp Arena at the Sweet 16 South Regional.
Panther fans from left to right: Ashley White, Kelley Eltringham, Courtney Caldwell, and Erica Borgia show their Pitt spirit and loudly cheer for their Pitt Panthers.