Wednesday night, Jamie Dixon’s Pitt Panthers got their first real test of the season in No. 4 Michigan and while the Panthers clearly passed the test, they came up just a bit short and suffered their first defeat of the season.
It was a very tight game throughout and the Panthers led 33-29 at the half and kept that lead until the 11 minute mark of the second half, but ultimately Michigan pulled away and escaped the Garden with a 67-62 win to advance to the finals of the Preseason NIT.
A Trey Zeigler free-throw gave Pitt a 44-39 lead with 11:39 remaining, but over the course of the next five minutes, Michigan went on a 9-0 run powered by Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. to take a 48-44 lead and the Wolverines never looked back.
During that span, Pitt went 0-for-4 from the floor and turned the ball over three times.
Offense was a problem for the Panthers most of the second half as shots did not come easy after Michigan head coach John Beilein switched to the 1-3-1.
Lamar Patterson showed up offensively for the first time this season and did his best to keep Pitt in the game, scoring six straight points to pull the Panthers within 53-50, but the Michigan lead extended to 59-50 before you knew it.
But Pitt didn’t quit and crept back within three on a couple different occasions, but the difference was the Wolverines ability to knock down their free-throws. Michigan knocked down all 12 of its free throws down the stretch.
Their explosive guard combination of Hardaway and Trey Burke had 16 and 17 points respectively, but did a lot of their work in the second half. The same can be said for Robinson, who made some big second half shots and finished with 13 on the night. Nik Stauskas also finished in double figures for the Wolverines with 15.
Michigan made only 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) but still finished the game shooting 46.9 percent from the floor, thanks to some easy second half looks.
Pitt shot a respectable 45.3 percent from the floor and knocked down 8-of-21 (38.1 percent) shots from behind the arc, but couldn’t find enough offense in the second half as only Patterson (14) scored in double figures on the night.
Part of that was due to the fact that Pitt got crushed on the boards. Michigan outrebounded Pitt 32-19 and often limited Pitt to one-and-done at the offensive end as the Panthers grabbed only four offensive rebounds on the night.
A big reason for that was due to the fact that freshman Steven Adams was a non-factor.
Adams attempted only one shot from the floor and went scoreless and grabbed only one rebound on the night. He picked up a quick foul in the first minute of the game and Dixon gave him a quick hook and never really went back to him early on.
Despite the loss though, Pitt showed they can play with the best teams in the nation and if a couple bounces went their way in the second half, they likely would have come away with a win.
Pitt returns to action Tuesday night when it hosts Howard at the Petersen Events Center.