CLEMSON, S.C. – Pittsburgh’s Josh Newkirk saw the ball free on the floor about 10 feet from the basket and didn’t know whether to drive to the basket or just put it up, so he let his instincts take over.
“I was just happy to pull up and it went in,” said Newkirk, who’s only jumper of the game forced overtime and rescued the Panthers, who had trailed 67-62 in the final seconds. “It was my only shot, but the only shot I needed to hit.”
Given new life, the Panthers (23-8, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) quickly pushed out to a seven-point lead to win 83-78 in their first visit to Clemson.
Lamar Patterson tied his career high with 30 points, including a three-pointer with 3 seconds left to set up the wild finish to regulation. Damarcus Harrison couldn’t get the inbounds pass in cleanly to K.J. McDaniels near the baseline and Newkirk saw the ball bounce his way when Patterson tipped it. After the shot, officials used monitors on each side of the court to take a look and decided there wasn’t indisputable evidence to rule it had come after time ran out.
“We were pretty sure it was a make,” said Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon, whose team was stung last month on a 35-foot game-winner by Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis in a 58-56 defeat. “I never came out of the huddle preparing for the overtime.”
Patterson said the Panthers, who hadn’t led since midway through the first half, wanted to put the Tigers (19-11, 10-8) away quickly. He hit his fifth 3-pointer to take the lead for good and Cameron Wright added a pair of baskets to put Pittsburgh up 74-67.
Clemson cut the lead to three points in overtime, the last at 81-78 on Rod Hall’s steal and layup with 18.8 seconds left. Wright then followed with the clinching foul shots at Pittsburgh moved to 4-0 in overtime games this season.
Patterson said the team dug in during the final seconds instead of giving in to Clemson.
“We had games where we lost at the end because there was time on the clock still and someone hit the big shot,” he said. “We know when the game’s over is when the horn sounds and not when there’s a couple of seconds left.”
McDaniels had 24 points to lead the Tigers, who were seeking their first-ever 11-win ACC season.
Wright had 16 points and Talib Zanna 10 points and 10 rebounds. Patterson was 10 of 19 from the field and matched his previous best set against Cal Poly this past December.
For much of the game, it looked like the Tigers were in control.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell slammed a white board in the huddle before overtime to get his players’ attention, sensing losing such a lead would deflate his players.
“I guess you do this long enough, you see a little bit of everything. That’s one that’ll stick with me for a while,” Brownell said.
Clemson was up 48-38 after Roper’s third 3 with 12:54 left. But Pittsburgh followed with an 18-8 run, highlighted by Patterson’s takeover. He had a basket, then a three-point play to draw the Panthers within in point. He struck for a three-pointer 3 minutes later to cut Clemson’s lead to 56-54, then tied it moments later a fast-break layup.
Patterson tied the game one last time at 60-all with 3:44 to go before McDaniels’ running jam put the Tigers up for good.
This game featured a pair of teams heading in different directions. Pitt was ranked much of the year as it opened 6-1 its first season in the ACC.
But things have gotten tougher for the Panthers the past few weeks as they’ve gone just 4-6 heading into the season finale.