Wilbekin's 3 beats halftime buzzer

Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin shoots and makes a 3 as time expires in the first half of the NCAA tournament third-round game against Pittsburgh on Saturday in Orlando.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 5:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 12:01 a.m.

ORLANDO — Pittsburgh had the perfect plan for the end of the first half against Florida on Saturday.

It turned out to be the perfect shot for Scottie Wilbekin.

“I really don't shoot many running 3s,” said the senior point guard. “But it went in and I was pretty happy about it.”

Florida coach Billy Donovan called a timeout with five seconds left in the half and Florida up two points. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon countered by inserting Chris Jones into the game defensively.

Jones, who only played for those five seconds in the game, was supposed to foul Wilbekin repeatedly because the Panthers had only three team fouls. Jones did once, but after a second ticked off the clock Florida inbounded the ball and Wilbekin raced to the other end of the court without being fouled.

“The 3 they hit could have easily been prevented if we had executed what (Dixon) wanted,” said Pitt's Michael Young. “Coach wanted us to foul him before he could even get close to taking a shot. We had three fouls to give and the plan was to foul him after he wasted time dribbling.”

But Wilbekin didn't waste any time. He sped to the 3-point line and drained a floating shot. The basket not only gave Florida a five-point lead in a half where points were a valuable commodity, it seemed to deflate the Panthers.

“I'm going to take full responsibility for it, but I think we all know what happened and it's on me,” Dixon said. “If we don't get it done, we don't get it done and that's where it's at.

“Again, we didn't get it done. Kid made a running shot from 25 feet.”

Dixon said he didn't believe the play was the turning point of the game because Pitt ended up losing by 16. But Florida celebrated the shot running off the court at halftime and started the second half on a 13-5 run to extend the lead. Pitt could never get closer than eight points after that.

“I expected them to foul me, too,” Wilbekin said. “But they didn't.”

Donovan said he didn't know whether the Panthers would foul Wilbekin again after the first foul, but told the guard to try to gain some separation from his defender.

“He was able to turn the corner and at least get a clear path there,” Donovan said.

While that 3-pointer may have been the shot of the game, it was a rough night for the Gators in terms of 3-point shooting. Florida was 5-of-20. Pitt also struggled, making only 4-of-17 tries.

Michael Frazier II made a pair of 3s in the first half, but missed all five of his attempts in the second half. Pitt's Lamar Patterson finished the game 1-of-7.

“I thought Patterson got loose a couple of times, but we kind of dodged a bullet,” Donovan said. “Probably he and Frazier offset themselves.”

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