By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Only once this season has the University of Virginia men’s basketball team lost back-to-back games. For that to continue to be case, UVA will need to eliminate some of the defensive breakdowns that marred its past two games.

The Cavaliers overcame those lapses in Tallahassee, Fla., where they defeated Florida State 80-76, but there were no smiles when they walked off the court three nights later at John Paul Jones Arena.

With an eight-game winning streak, Virginia entered the game as the ACC’s hottest team. Pittsburgh now holds that distinction. The Panthers torched UVA from 3-point range Tuesday night and won 74-63.

“At Florida State we kind of won more with our offense,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. “In this game, offense wasn’t enough.”

For the 21st-ranked Wahoos, the loss was their first at JPJ since Dec. 17, 2022, and it knocked them from second to third place in the ACC standings. The Hoos 19-6 overall, 10-4 ACC) had won 23 straight home games, including 13 this season, before Tuesday night. Theirs was the nation’s longest home winning streak.

“Tony has built this into an unbelievable environment,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said. “This is one of the toughest environments in all of college basketball because of their fans and how they really get behind his team and connect with his team … We knew it was gonna be an unbelievable challenge, but we were excited about the opportunity of the challenge. We talked about that with our guys for three days.”

Pitt (16-8, 7-6) has won four straight games. Blake Hinson led the Panthers to an upset of then-No. 11 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium last month, and the 6-foot-8, 230-pound senior dazzled again at JPJ. Big, strong and with a quick shooting release, Hinson tormented the Hoos time and again.

“Hard match-up. Tough match-up,” Bennett said. “We had a hard time. He doesn’t need much room … We couldn’t handle him tonight.”

Hinson hit five 3-pointers and finished with 27 points. That’s the most an opposing player has scored against Virginia this season. Inside the arc, Hinson was 6 for 6.

“He was on fire,” said senior guard Reece Beekman, who led Virginia in points (19), rebounds (six) and assists (five).

Hinson wasn’t the only Panther to burn the Hoos. Four of his teammates made two treys apiece. Pitt scored 42 points from long range, to only 12 for Virginia. The Panthers’ 14 treys are the most UVA has allowed this season.

“It’s hard to beat a team that makes 14 3s,” UVA sophomore Isaac McKneely said. “We’ll look at the film and see what we can do better, but we got to tighten some things up for sure.”

Isaac McKneely (11)

The Panthers became the first ACC opponent since Duke in 2018-19 to crack the 70-point mark at JPJ.

Bennett said his team struggled against the ball screens that continually freed Pitt’s shooters, “and we probably [had] four or five unforced errors in the first half that gave them 3s, and you can’t do that against an offensive team like that. We even had a harder time containing the dribble. And then when you look at [Pitt’s 11] offensive rebounds, at times we unplugged. It takes a real sound, tough-minded effort defensively from start to finish against a team like this that’s playing as well and has that kind of attack.”

The Hoos had similar issues Jan. 13 in Winston-Salem, N.C., where Wake Forest went 10 for 21 from 3-point range in a 66-47 win. The rematch is Saturday at JPJ. Bennett expects his team to play better than it did Wednesday night, but he knows nothing is guaranteed.

“Every game, every practice, you start over and say, ‘All right, are we willing to lay it on the line and be as tough-minded as we can?’ ” said Bennett, whose record against Pitt is 12-4. “You don’t want success to soften you. You don’t want losing to discourage you. But you can never assume it’s just going to be there because we’re rolling.”

Virginia let Pitt get comfortable from the start Tuesday. The Panthers made five 3-pointers in the first nine minutes and led 35-31 at the break. Hinson opened the second half with another trey to made it a seven-point game, but the Cavaliers took the lead with a 9-0 run.

It didn’t last. Pitt went ahead to stay on a 3-pointer from Hinson—who else?—with 13:01 remaining and then steadily pulled away.

After Beekman made two free throws to cut Virginia’s deficit to eight at the 6:18 mark, Pitt separated again and stretched its lead to 14.

“I feel like we got a little stagnant on the offensive end and their offense kept going,” Beekman said. “We’ve just got to figure out ways to stop those scoring droughts for us and clean it up on the defensive end.”

Virginia is “not necessarily a team that plays well from behind,” McKneely said, “because we’re not the fastest team, and we don’t try and push it in transition too much. So it’s hard whenever we get behind like that and they’re hitting tough shots. I would say definitely [that] sometimes when they hit a tough shot like that, it deflates you. It’s like, ‘Man, we played good defense for 29 seconds and then they hit a tough one at the end of the shot clock or whatever.’ So sometimes that can deflate you, but we can’t let that happen. We got to keep the offense and defense separate.”

Reece Beekman (2)

The Cavaliers exhibited considerable resilience during their winning streak, but late in the game Tuesday night, they seemed to grow discouraged, Bennett said, “and we’ve got to learn from that … We didn’t stick to what we needed to do, and then it can separate quick.”

Beekman said: “We’ve got to play more as a team and stay together. I feel like stretches during the game, we kind of drifted apart on both sides of the ball, and that hurt us. We’ve just got to learn to stick together and do what we do. I feel like we had a lot of lapses on the defensive end that just caused [Pitt] to have more energy throughout the game.”

McKneely, with 15 points, joined Beekman in double figures. Sophomore forward Ryan Dunn contributed eight points and five blocked shots, and graduate student Jacob Groves scored seven points off the bench.

The Hoos missed 10 of 14 shots from 3-point range. Inside the arc, though, they were 21 of 36 (58.3 percent), and they finished with only five turnovers. Against Pitt’s barrage of treys, that wasn’t good enough.

“We got some good shots, but also took some ill-advised shots at times,” Bennett said. “But we’ve just got to learn from it, grow from it, and credit to Pitt for how they play.”

Another sizable challenge awaits Virginia, which hosts Wake (16-8, 8-5) at noon Saturday in a game to air on ESPN2. The Demon Deacons lost Monday night to No. 9 Duke in Durham, N.C.

“I still think we’ve got the right mindset,” Beekman said. “We’ve just got to clean up on a couple little things, and I feel like we’ll be all right.”

To receive Jeff White’s articles by email, click the appropriate box in this link to subscribe.