Giving up four points in the final 10 seconds of a loss at the buzzer to Virginia was the low point this season for Pitt. It came on Dec. 3, and it was the Panthers' fourth straight defeat and second in a span of four days by a single point.
When the Atlantic Coast Conference teams meet again on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, Virginia (10-7, 4-3 ACC) will find an opponent with a different mindset. The Panthers (7-10, 2-4) are coming off their best win this season, 65-53, over Louisville on Saturday.
It was particularly uplifting for Pitt, considering its 75-72 loss 10 days earlier to the Cardinals. The Panthers got the reversal by limiting Louisville to 33.3 percent shooting, including 25.0 percent (7 of 28) from deep.
"We've had to understand the things that are necessary for us to be a good team. We have to bring people in the mud," Pittsburgh coach Jeff Capel said. "It's not going to necessarily be pretty."
Another reason for the Panthers' uptick is Jamarius Burton, who had 20 points and eight rebounds on Saturday. Burton, a transfer from Texas Tech, missed the start of the season with a knee injury. Over the past eight games, he has averaged 16.4 points, providing perimeter punch to pair with John Hugley, Pitt's top scorer (15.4 points per game) and rebounder (8.1).
For the visiting Cavaliers, the season has been a grind.
Virginia's defense has been good, but nothing resembling the suffocating work of Tony Bennett's teams in previous seasons. As for its offense, opponents have figured out that beyond top scorer Jayden Gardner, the Cavaliers don't have much firepower. Over the past two games, Gardner has made just 5 of 24 shots.
Virginia's past two losses have come against teams it had previously dominated. On Saturday, the Cavaliers lost 63-55 to a Wake Forest team it had beaten nine straight times. On Jan. 8, Virginia fell at North Carolina, a team it had beaten seven consecutive times.
"You spend a little more time and keep challenging, keep encouraging and keep knocking on that door," Bennett said. "Hopefully, we'll get better and improve."
--Field Level Media