Tray Woodall got off his shot with no one around, the exact opposite, of course, of what UConn had in mind.
And Kevin Ollie howled, "nooooo," above the din at the Petersen Events Center.
UConn had rallied from 14 points down to tie Pittsburgh at 55 with 4:38 to play on Saturday afternoon, but now, with the game on the line, the Huskies' defense had broken down against the most basic play, the pick and roll.
Woodall hit the shot, and next time down the floor James Robinson, from almost the same spot, knocked down another three-pointer and UConn was done. Pitt outscored the Huskies 11-3 the rest of the way to win, 69-61.
"Breakdowns down on the pick-and-roll defense," Ollie said afterward. "We've got to get better at it because every team is going to run the pick and roll. It has been around for years. That's why [Karl] Malone and [John] Stockton ran it."
There, Ollie was calling upon his NBA experience. The Utah Jazz combo ran the pick and roll to perfection for years, and it was, for years, the league's fashionable play. Pitt, after its lead had vanished, executed it flawlessly. First Lamar Patterson ran the screen and kicked it out to Woodall, who put Pittsburgh ahead 58-55 with 4:18 to play, then after UConn tied it again, it was Dante Taylor kicking it out to Robinson for three, putting Pittsburgh ahead 61-58 with 3:43 left and, as it turned out, ahead to stay.
"We tried to go into a zone [defense]," Ollie said. "One of them was just bad communication. They turned to the corner, and Ryan [Boatright] had to help on it and stop the layup. We played our percentage there, and [Woodall] is a good player and he made a shot."
UConn had trouble with the pick- or screen-and-roll in the second half against Louisville on Monday night, and Ollie, mindful that Pitt "runs a ton of screen-and-rolls," emphasized defending it during the week in practice. But at crunch time, the Panthers effectively forced UConn's defense to pinch on the ballhandler to prevent the easy basket underneath, and leave the shooter wide open on the perimeter.
"Our strategy was to blow the pick and roll, and if he got over the top, it was going to force me to help," Boatright said. "That's exactly what happened on those two plays. He got over the screen to drive and we both had to pinch, then they kicked it out and knocked down the threes."
The breakdowns kept UConn from pulling off what could have been a memorable victory. As in games against Quinnipiac, New Mexico and Marquette, the Huskies erased a double-digit, second-half deficit. As in the latter three of those games, the Huskies lost after coming back to tie or take the lead.
"We dug ourselves too deep a [hole] to come out of," Boatright said. "We did a good job coming out of it, but we died coming out of it. Pick and roll is what it came down to the end of the day, the pick-and-roll defense."
So it's probably no mystery what UConn will be working on this week in practice, with a lengthy layoff before playing Rutgers at the XL Center Sunday at 2 p.m. There are other areas, too. The Huskies were dominated in rebounding for the second game in a row, against Louisville and Pitt, so there is more work to be done, despite the encouraging efforts against Washington, DePaul and Notre Dame. UConn's offense stagnated against the Panthers' zone defense in the first half Saturday, so that problem will have to be solved, too.
The Huskies' next five opponents are teams ranked eighth or lower in the Big East preseason poll, so, on paper, it's a chance to go on a season-building winning streak. But this team, whether underdog or favored, plays a lot of close games, and execution down the stretch is likely to decide what kind of season this will ultimately become.
"The pick and roll is the toughest thing to guard," Ollie said. "If we don't get better, if we don't do it with five people [working together] on the court, we're going to be in trouble."