Facing an Atlantic Coast Conference team on the road, William & Mary led for 17½ of the first 23 minutes. That included a four-point advantage at halftime.
But Pittsburgh took the lead for good with 16:07 remaining and ended up cruising to an 80-64 win Friday night in the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers made 13 of their first 18 shots in the second half, and the Tribe’s two-game winning streak came to an end.
“The first half was the best half of basketball we’ve played all season,” W&M coach Dane Fischer said. “We had great defensive focus and took away what we wanted to take away for the most part. Offensively, we were really patient and worked to get great shots and took care of the ball.
“In the second half, we just couldn’t get stops. They hurt us on the inside and then they hurt us outside. Offensively, we became unglued and tried to do too much. But overall, I was pleased with the effort for 40 minutes. We just have to clean up some execution.”
Pitt had superior size with Blake Hinson (6-foot-7, 235) and John Hugley IV (6-9, 265) in the starting five. W&M (3-4) could match the height but not the bulk. Hinson finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds (10 and eight in the first half), and Hugley had 16 and seven (10 and seven in the second half).
“We had a hard time stopping them inside,” Fischer said. “They posted multiple guys and we really couldn’t guard any of their guys on the block.
“We tried to double them, and then they started hitting threes. They really got on the offensive glass in second half, and that has to do with how big and physical they are.”
Still, W&M’s Ben Wight had a career night with 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting. He also finished with 11 rebounds (seven offensively) for his fifth career double-double. Wight is averaging 18 points in his last three games.
“Ben played with a great motor, as he always does,” Fischer said. “He was so patient around the rim and really pivoted well and took his time to get good angles and shots. When he does that, he’s really hard to guard because he has such good footwork and feel.”
After a 7-0 run, the Tribe took a 26-19 lead on Matteus Case’s layup with 7:25 remaining in the first half. The Panthers stopped the run but W&M went into halftime with a 37-33 lead. The Tribe was shooting 46%, 4-of-10 from deep, and was only minus-one on the boards at the break.
Pitt (4-3) began the second half with a 10-6 run to tie the game with 17:13 remaining. A Wight jumper in the paint gave the Tribe’s its final lead, and the Panthers went on a 21-5 run over the next 5½ minutes. Pitt outrebounded W&M 27-17 in the second half.
Pitt went 15-of-19 from the free throw line 11-of-28 from the 3-point arc. W&M was 9-of-18 and 5-of-19. Combined, the Panthers outscored the Tribe 48-24 in those categories.
“We knew we had to take away the rim first,” Fischer said. “The challenge with them is they have a lot of guys who can make threes as well. It’s a little bit of pick your poison when you play a team like that. They played well enough from inside and outside to beat us.”
The Tribe’s next game will be Tuesday night at N.C. State. The Wolfpack was 5-1 going into Friday night’s game against Butler in the Bahamas.