PITTSBURGH – McKinley Smith scored the game-winner for Howard with 5:51 seconds remaining in the second overtime as Pitt suffered a 1-0 loss to the Bison on Tuesday, Oct. 14.
After a few crisp passes, Smith received the ball from Stephen Douba in the middle of the box. Smith was one of three unmarked offensive players in the box and had only Panthers goalkeeper junior Dan Lynd to beat. He sent a low shot into the right corner, freezing Lynd to bring the game to a halt.
The goal was a low moment in an offensive struggle for Pitt. Despite tallying a season-high 25 shots and receiving 12 corner kicks (tied for the second highest this season), the Panthers were unable to find the back of the net. Even with nine shots on goal, Pitt couldn’t drum anything up as Howard goalie Eric Hamilton made save-after-save. Hamilton, the NCAA leader in total saves entering the game, added eight stops to his total. He was also fourth nationally with 6.23 saves per game and upped that average to 6.36.
It was Pitt’s (3-7-3) first non-conference home loss of the season and first in four out-of-league games dating back to 2013. This year, the Panthers were 1-0-2 in non-Atlantic Coast Conference contests. For Howard (1-11-2), it is their first win of the season. However, the Bison have played well of late and are 1-3-2 in the last six outings.
Pitt got off to a slow start as Howard outshot the Panthers 5-2 in the opening 21 minutes and had two corner kicks to just one for the home team. Included in that shot disparity was an attempt from the Bison’s Nigel Grant which hit the crossbar in front of a wide open net. After eluding a defender, Grant got by a helpless Lynd on the ground but sent his shot just a bit too high.
With 20 minutes remaining in the half, head coach Joe Luxbacher inserted junior Patrick Dixon and freshman Hamish Law into the lineup, and the duo provided a spark immediately. Dixon wasted no time putting a shot on goal less than a minute later.
In the final 10 minutes of the half, Law and Dixon combined to take five corner kicks. And the Panthers nearly scored on each one of them. Law’s second corner was placed perfectly at sophomore Kevin Murray’s foot as he was running to the near post. Murray redirected the ball, but Hamilton made the diving save. His next attempt three minutes later ended up at the foot of sophomore Stephane Pierre, whose shot was knocked away by a Bison defender that stood his ground on the goal line by the post for the defensive save.
Both teams had to settle a scoreless first half after a flurry of chances – Howard early on and Pitt later in the half.
The second half was much of the same with Pitt being even more dominant. In the final 45 minutes of regulation, Pitt outshot Howard 13-1 and had the only four corner kicks of the half. Dixon fired three shots in the first 10 minutes of the second half, placing two on goal. However, Hamilton was up for the challenge.
Less than a minute after Dixon’s third try, Howard recorded its only shot of the second half, and wouldn’t get another look until early in the extra session.
Murray provided Pitt’s best attempt with overtime looming. With less than six minutes to go, senior Michael Tuohy had his shot blocked. The losse ball trickled into the box where both Murray and Hamilton raced toward the ball. Murray got there first, but his chip shot skimmed over the goal.
Neither team asserted itself in the first overtime, with each team notching two shots. While Pitt couldn’t get one on goal, Howard tested Lynd less than two minutes in. It was the first shot Lynd faced since the second minute of the contest.
Pitt made the first move in overtime number two with Dixon sending his sixth shot of the night towards Hamilton, who made his eighth and final save.
Just over a minute later, Howard ended it with Smith’s score after Pitt was unable to successfully clear the ball.
The Panthers resume conference play on Friday, Oct. 17 at Virginia Tech with a 7 p.m. kickoff.