PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon kept telling his players during every timeout that they would find a way to win.
After a flurry of mistakes, missed shots and missed opportunities, the Panthers proved Dixon prophetic.
James Robinson scored 22 points, including five free throws in the final minute to seal it as Pitt escaped with an ugly 101-96 double-overtime win over Wake Forest on Tuesday night.
"It's good to win a close game down the stretch and have to make plays and have so many guys make plays," Dixon said.
Chris Jones scored a career-high 23 points for the Panthers before fouling out in the second overtime. Jamel Artis and Michael Young added 19 points apiece as the Panthers (18-7, 7-6 ACC) ended a three-game losing streak and narrowly avoided a loss that would have put a severe blow into their hopes of making the NCAA tournament.
"We knew this (could have been) a season breaker," Artis said.
Cornelius Hudson led the Demon Deacons (10-16, 1-13) with 22 points and Bryant Crawford had 20 but Wake Forest dropped its 11th straight conference game and has now lost 23 consecutive road games in the ACC.
"They all sting," coach Danny Manning said. "Losing (stinks). There's no other way to put it."
This was no classic. The teams slogged through an occasionally sloppy regulation. Wake Forest erased a 10-point deficit with less than 12 minutes to go, putting together a 22-7 burst by Crawford and Codi Miller-McIntyre that put the Demon Deacons in front 68-63 with 3:39 to go. Yet nothing has come easy this season for Wake Forest, which let a seven-point advantage with less than 17 seconds to go get away against Virginia last month.
Pitt eventually tied the score at 69 and the teams traded clutch baskets in the final 34 seconds of regulation. Dinos Mitoglou's 3 gave Wake the lead only to have Robinson answer with a 3 of his own with 16 seconds to play to force overtime.
Wake Forest had the ball and an 82-81 lead with 9 seconds left in the first overtime but Miller-McIntyre inexplicably threw the inbounds pass to Robinson, who was fouled. He made one of two to tie the game and Crawford's runner from the corner had no chance.
"We just didn't handle the situation that well," Manning said.
Another 3-pointer Hudson put the Demon Deacons ahead 89-88 in the second overtime but Artis hit a pull-up jumper, Sheldon Jeter drilled a 17-footer and Robinson made a pair of free throws to finally put Wake Forest away.
"We fought back through adversity," Artis said. "We're 1-0 right now. We have five more to go."
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons haven't won a road ACC game since beating Virginia Tech 83-77 on Jan. 22, 2014. ... Crawford scored eight points in less than a minute in the first half on a free throw, a 3-pointer and consecutive steals he turned into layups.
Pitt: Artis became the 46th Panther to reach 1,000 points when he made a jumper in the second half. ... Pitt is averaging nearly 78 points a game, the highest during Dixon's 13-year tenure.
Wake Forest played well enough to grab it in regulation if not for an inability to make free throws. The Demon Deacons went 16 of 32 at the line and were 12 of 28 at one point. They were also outrebounded 58-35 and gave up 26 offensive rebounds.
The fact they still had a chance to pull it out says as much about Pitt's erratic defense as it does about how Wake Forest continues to compete late in a season that started with promise but is ending with one painful setback after another.
"The bottom line is we had an opportunity to put ourselves in situation to have a different outcome," Manning said. "Turnovers, offensive rebounds, the free throws. We can control that and we didn't do a well enough job to give us a chance to win."
Dixon called out his team for getting manhandled in a loss at North Carolina over the weekend. It didn't exactly light a fire defensively. The Panthers let Wake Forest shoot 51 percent (34 of 67) and outscore Pitt in the paint 42-34. Not exactly encouraging with a stretch that includes a trip to Syracuse and home dates with Louisville and Duke coming in the next two weeks.
"You'd think we'd have it figured out by now," Dixon said. "But we believe we're going to get better. We're not frustrated."
Wake Forest: hosts Boston College on Sunday.
Pitt: at Syracuse on Saturday.
AP college basketball website: www.collegebasketball.ap.org
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