Niagara, a 15-point underdog, did not score a basket in the last 3:48 but managed to hold on to a 71-70 men's college basketball upset of Pitt at the Peterson Events Center on Monday night in Pittsburgh.
Sophomore guard Keleaf Tate led the Purple Eagles with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
"I’m so, so proud of our guys," coach Chris Casey said. "We stayed tough that entire game and we were together and unified. We fortunately made just enough plays to come out on top. If you’re a college basketball fan, you loved that game right there. That was a great game right there."
Niagara ended a three-game losing streak to go to 3-4 for the season. Pitt is 7-2 with the lone loss a one-pointer at Iowa.
Asked when he thought his team could win, Casey said, "In practice three days ago. I’m not being smart. We approach every game like that. We expect to win every game. … Our guys are a good group. They work and they are resilient. They don’t let the last thing affect them. We showed some of that tonight because we had a tough loss on Friday and we’ve been on the road since then. We didn’t go back home so we’ve been practicing."
Niagara played again without senior forward Marvin Prochet, its leading scorer and rebounder, who is out with toe injury on his right foot.
Tate, Dominic Robb (12), James Towns (12) and sophomore Greg Kuakumensah (12) picked up the scoring slack. Tate made 4 of 9 3-point tries, Niagara was 8 for 19 from outside the 3-point arc. Towns had nine assists.
For Robb, the game was a return to his hometown.
"It meant a ton to me. I love this city," Robb said. "Perfect time, senior year to end up coming here. It felt awesome playing. To get a win here is huge. My teammates supported me, they all said, 'You’re coming home, let’s get a win for you.' Everyone contributed."
Kuakumensah scored with 3:48 to give the Purple Eagles a 68-62 lead but it was a struggle to the end. Niagara commited five of its 24 turnovers the rest of the way, including one that led to a 3-pointer by Jared Wilson-Frame of the Panthers that cut the lead to one with eight seconds left. One more turnover gave Pitt a last chance but Xavier Johnson missed a layup with three seconds left and the rebound attempt was blocked.
"That’s a lot of turnovers," Casey said. "Credit to them. They really were after us at key points. Their athleticism and size and strength and length took over a few times. … Twenty-four turnovers is a lot. That’s something we have to shore up."
Johnson, a freshman, led the Panthers with 19 points.
The last three Niagara points came as the free throw line. Barton hit the second of two with 1:12 left to make it 69-65. Kuakumensah made two in the clutch with 11 seconds left to make it 71-67.
Pitt loses 71-70 had this shot to win it at the buzzer. 🙁 pic.twitter.com/kMy29G71Yl
— Bob Greenburg (@BobGreenburg) December 4, 2018
UB women at Canisius tonight
With a major road test coming up on Friday at Dayton, the University at Buffalo women's team (5-1) will be closer to home tonight against Canisius (1-6) at the Koessler Center.
UB is coming off an 82-69 win against Central Connecticut State. Cierra Dillard, the nation's leading scorer, led the Bulls with 26 points while Brittany Morrison had a career-high 16 rebounds.
Canisius won its first game of the season at Albany last week, but was routed, 62-36, by Youngstown State on Saturday at home.
Senior Sara Hinriksdottir leads the Griffs with 12.1 points per game. Danielle Sanderlin is averaging 10.0 points and 14.5 rebounds.
UB's next home game will be against nationally ranked Stanford coached by Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame member Tara Vanderveer at noon on Friday, Dec. 21 at Alumni Arena.