The Pitt Panthers knew its task was monumental in order to get back into the NCAA Tournament conversation, but the journey ended before it could start.
The 81-70 loss to NC State Wednesday night in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Now despite what many people call Jamie Dixon’s best coaching job, the Panthers will be NIT bound.
NC State [20-12] dominated the first half, and Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber in particular created separation from the Panthers [19-14]. Barber scored 21 points in the first half, which was two less than the Panthers put up as a team. Barber would end the night with a career-high 34 points, five assists and a 12-12 night from the free throw line.
When the Panthers switched Cameron Wright on to Barber, it was leading scorer Trevor Lacey [16.1 ppg] who elevated his performance keeping the Wolfpack in the lead. Lacey finished the game with 21 points.
The Panthers did not hit a three-point shot in the first half while Barber hit two in less than eight minutes of the game.
The Wolfpack scored six of the first eight points in this game and led 16-8 with 12:33 remaining in the first half. The Panthers were able to cut the first half deficit to five points, however the response back was a 7-0 run to push the lead to 12 points. At the half it was the Wolfpack on top 37-23.
Sheldon Jeter scored the first points of the second half, which represented the first Panthers three-point basket of the contest. The Panthers cut the lead to seven points on a Michael Young three, but as was the case all half, the Wolfpack responded this time with a 5-0 run to put the score to 57-43 with 9:19 to play.
The Panthers cut the deficit to eight with a 6-2 run however Barber brought the lead back to double digits with a dunk and the foul. After making the free throw, the score was 73-62 with 2:05 to play.
In the second half, the Wolfpack shot 63.6 percent from the field. Additionally they had a 30-16 advantage in points in the paint.
Cameron Wright was one of four Panther players in double figures, leading his team with 21 points on 8-12 shooting from the field. Chris Jones , Michael Young  and Jamel Artis  were the other double-digit scorers.
NC State will face Duke Thursday in an ACC quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. With the victory ESPN’s Joe Lunardi moved the Wolfpack from a nine to an eight seed.
The Panthers likely had to win the ACC Tournament but now will have to wait on the NIT announcement to see when their next game will be.