79 - 84 Final - OT
  for this game

Pittsburgh outlasts Virginia Commonwealth in overtime

Mar 18, 2007 - 5:30 AM BUFFALO, New York (Ticker) -- After two costly misses at the free-throw line, Levance Fields had to step back to save Pittsburgh's season.

Fields hit a crucial high-arcing 3-pointer in overtime and the third-seeded Panthers held off a stirring comeback to defeat 11th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth, 84-79, in a West Region second-round game of the NCAA Tournament.

Pittsburgh (29-7), which squandered a 19-point second-half lead, advanced to the regional semifinal Thursday against No. 2 seed UCLA.

I'm very proud of our guys and how they responded," Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. "Once we got into overtime I think that showed our team's true heart. It takes a lot to do, come out of the gate in that overtime and do the things that we did. I'm very proud of them and not at all surprised. We were able to get a win against a very good team."

Despite blowing the huge lead, the Panthers appeared poised to pulled out the victory in regulation when Fields stepped to the free-throw line with 2.1 seconds left. But the sophomore guard missed both attempts and VCU's Mike Anderson made a heady play to tie up Sam Young after he grabbed the rebound of Fields' second attempt.

With Pitt clinging to a one-point lead and the shot clock winding down in the extra session, Fields hoisted a rainbow 3-pointer from the top of the key with a defender in his face that swished through the net for a 75-71 lead with 3:08 to play.

"After the two free throws my teammates and coaches told me to put it behind me, we have five more minutes to get the job done," Fields said. "Everybody believed in me, my confidence was still up. Of course I was disappointed, I didn't want to let the seniors or my team down.

"When I took that shot (in overtime) I was very confident. When it went through the basket it was a feeling of relief."

Ronald Ramon followed with a 3-pointer to build the Panthers' lead to seven and seemingly finish the Rams, who conquered Duke in the opening round.

However, VCU (28-7) rattled off a 6-0 run to close within 80-79 on a driving layup by point guard Eric Maynor, but Pitt ended the suspense as Mike Cook and Sam Young each made two free throws in the final 19 seconds.

"My mind set (in overtime) was that we had another life," Rams guard B.A. Walker said. "We scratched and clawed to get back in the game. We just tried to stay calm and impose our will in overtime, play our style of game. We just fell short, time ran out."

Pitt started to take control of the game midway through the opening half. Hitting 14 of their first 25 shots, the Panthers went ahead by 12 points en route to a 41-26 lead at the break.

Aside from the hot shooting, Pitt adroitly handled VCU's press and continued to pull away, extending the lead to 51-32 with just over 12 minutes to play.

"I thought (Pitt) did a good job with their press offense, flashing the two big (guys) with (Levon) Kendall and (Aaron) Gray," Rams coach Anthony Grant said. "The problem with their big guys was once they got it across halfcourt we had a difficult time defending Gray in the low post, we had a difficult time with a guy like Kendall. They were able to keep the ball alive on the glass."

Guards Walker and Jesse Pellot-Rosa finally got untracked and combined for 25 points in a 35-16 surge that pulled the Rams even at 67-67 with 2:06.

"You're going to go through adversity in a basketball game," Maynor said. "Coach tells us it's a 40-minute game. Going into halftime we were down 15. The first thing he told us was we have another 20 minutes. We've got a lot of heart. Our will to win, we just fell short tonight."

Pellot-Rosa scored on a follow shot to give VCU its first lead at 69-67 with 52 seconds left but Pitt smartly answered with a home run pass to Young to tie it five seconds later.

That led to the two misses at the line and the overtime session.

"I don't think there was doubt in their minds we were going to win the game," Dixon said. "That was the feeling in the huddle, that's what we talked about. It was a group effort, building us back up and being ready to go. The guys believed. We're proud of how they handled it, that's the true sense of character."

Young finished with 15 points and center Gray added 14 and eight rebounds despite a case of food poisoning for the Panthers, who led, 51-32, with just over 12 minutes to play.

Pellot-Rosa scored all 20 of his points in the second half. Walker also had 20 for the Rams, who hung in even though Pitt shot 54 percent (31-of-57) from the floor.

"I'd like to give a lot of credit to Pittsburgh. I thought they played an excellent game," Grant said. "That being said, there's a level of disappointment for us that we weren't able to come out with a victory. We've understood in order for us to have a chance to win there's certain things we have to do."