PITTSBURGH – Okaro White scored a season-high 22 points, including nine in the final 7 minutes, and Florida State pulled away to beat Pittsburgh, 71-66, Sunday.
Ian Miller added 19 points and Aaron Thomas 14 for the Seminoles (16-11, 7-8 ACC), who have won two of their past three.
White, the Seminoles’ third-leading scorer who had totaled just 10 points in his previous two games, scored 13 points after halftime and made the biggest shot of the game with 2:17 remaining.
Clinging to a three-point lead, White drilled a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to take the air out of the sails of the Panthers, who were attempting to mount a late charge.
“That was huge,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We were a little out of sorts at the time. That was a big-time play from him.”
Lamar Patterson led Pitt (20-7, 8-6) with 22 points. The Panthers have lost three in a row and five of their past seven. They are in danger of falling out of contention for the NCAA tournament after winning 15 of 16 games to start the season.
“We’re here to make the NCAA tournament,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We put ourselves in good position, but now we lost three in a row. You can only have so many losses. We have to play better.”
White was largely responsible for sending the Panthers to their third consecutive defeat. Coming off a four-point performance in a loss against North Carolina in which he only took three shots, White was 7-for-13 from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds.
“He was in the flow a little more,” Hamilton said. “Our guys got the ball to him in spots. He’s been around. He gave us good leadership down the stretch and gave us a couple of plays we had to have.”
In addition to the 3-pointer, White was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 1:15. The Seminoles were 27-for-31 from the line while Pitt was 18-for-28. The Panthers were 10-for-18 in the second half.
“The missed free throws added up and continued to put pressure on us,” Dixon said.
Florida State did a good job defending Patterson, Pitt’s leading scorer who was 8-for-21 from the field and scored 16 of his 22 points in the final 3 minutes when the Panthers were desperately trying to get back in the game.
“I did think we made him work for his shots,” Hamilton said. “You can’t hold a guy like that down. He was hitting 3s from the parking lot. Our goal was to make him work harder to get good looks. He missed some easy opportunities in the first half and we were very fortunate to be where we were at halftime.”
Florida State led 37-31 at halftime. After making 13 of 24 shots in the first half, the Seminoles started the second half 1-for-11 from the field and went 7½ minutes without a field goal. Despite those struggles, the Seminoles never lost the lead.
Pitt’s own offensive problems during the same 7½ minute stretch was the reason for that. The Panthers could only manage two field goals during that time.
Pitt’s offensive is at the root of the Panthers’ problems. They shot 37 percent from the field against the Seminoles and have shot more than 40 percent just twice in the past seven games.
“We’re not moving the ball like we have done in the past,” Dixon said. “We’re not executing our sets. We’re letting things wear on us. We need to get it right and get better at executing offensively. That’s affecting a lot of what we’re doing.”
The Seminoles used an 11-1 run midway through the first half to begin to pull away from the Panthers. The score was tied at 18 when the Seminoles held the Panthers without a field goal for almost 5 minutes.
Miller scored five of his 12 first-half points in that stretch. White gave Florida State its biggest lead of the half at 29-19 with 4:07 to go before intermission.