lair – Three points: What stood out to you in Saturday’s victory?

From the heroics of Jamarius Burton to the total team effort it took for a win over a ranked opponent, here’s what stood out in Pitt’s win over No. 20 Miami on Saturday.

Big Games
You know the saying:

Big players make big plays in big games.

The game was Pitt’s withdrawal from No. 20 Miami on Saturday. Games were basically all in the final two minutes. And the player was Jamarius Burton.
The senior guard and Pitt’s leader nearly had a triple-double, collecting 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists – his second career double-double and the second he’s had in the last four games – but his play in the final minutes and his role in Pitt’s 11-0 run to win the match cannot be overstated. Although Burton didn’t score a point as the Panthers turned a 68-60 deficit into a 71-68 win, he had two defensive rebounds and two steals in those final two minutes, and he did successively.

He grabbed a defensive rebound after Miami missed following Federiko’s opportunity and -1 Federiko cut the lead to six. Then he had another on a Miami miss that came after Blake Hinson hit a three. Nelly Cummings scored after that rebound, and the Burtons stole a poor pass from Isaiah Wong; he didn’t complete the fast break, but Hinson did to make it a one-point game.

Then, with the game on the line and less than 20 seconds left, Burton looked at Wong in a one-on-one situation, and when the Miami guard drove up and tried to shoot, Burton forcefully pushed the ball away from him for a flight.

Single-handedly, Burton ended four straight Miami possessions, and each of those plays was crucial to the comeback.

The return of the team effort
Of course, it wasn’t just Burton who led Pitt to victory on Saturday. As mentioned above, he didn’t even score in the 11-0 run that closed the game and secured the win. Granted, he made a lot of plays in that run, but the points came from Federiko (2), Hinson (5), Cummings (2) and Greg Elliott (2).

And really, this run was the highlight of the comeback; those players did a lot throughout the second half to keep the Panthers in the game against a pretty powerful Miami offense.

The Hurricanes led by 11 points at various points in the second half, but each time Pitt got a field goal never to let the lead grow. When Miami took a 41-30 lead early in the half, Cummings responded with his first field goal of the game (a two-point jumper). When the Hurricanes were leading 51-40, Burton sank two free throws to bring it back to single digits. He also had a three-pointer several possessions later after Miami regained an 11-point lead at 53-42.

And after those three, Pitt kept the Hurricanes from back-to-back baskets for the next nine minutes, eventually cutting the lead to four in the under-four media timeout.

Whether it was Burton or Cummings driving, Hinson or Elliott hitting threes or Federiko grabbing offensive rebounds – he had three in the second half, including a key offensive tip he kicked out to Elliott for a three that reduced the four-way lead – Pitt got what she needed from her top five contributors.

Pitt’s place in the ACC
With the win over Miami, Pitt moved up to third place in the ACC, and the Panthers are not far off second place.

Clemson currently leads the conference after Saturday’s games with a 10-1 record in league play. Behind the Tigers are the Virginia Cavaliers, who are 8-2 in ACC games. Next is Pitt and his 8-3 record; in theory, the Panthers are half a game behind Virginia, but in reality, it’s closer to a full game or two since the Cavs beat Pitt.

But with nine games left in the regular season, the Panthers are firmly in the thick of it. They play North Carolina (15-6 overall, 7-4 ACC) on Wednesday night, then take a break until the following Tuesday when they host Louisville (2-19, 0-10), which they beat by 20 on the road two weeks ago.

Road trips to Florida State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Miami and home games against Boston College, Georgia Tech and Syracuse await after that. Road games at UNC, FSU and Miami are the toughest challenges, but Pitt managed to navigate the first half of the ACC schedule plus one game, and the Panthers became one of the best teams in the league.

The whiff of legitimacy is growing, and while the Panthers will always be vulnerable to a night without a shot, they’re also fully capable of holding their own in most games against most opponents – which was certainly the case in arguably their best win of the season.

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