Coming off of their best effort of the season against Georgetown, the Pittsburgh Panthers men’s basketball team hoped to even their Big East record to 2-2 but came up short to the Marquette Golden Eagles in overtime by a 74-67 score.
Vander Blue led Marquette with 22 points and Lamar Patterson also had 22 points, a career high.
“The rebounding stands out to me, I know people point to the free throws, obviously that was a big component of it,” Panthers Head Coach Jamie Dixon said. “Rebounding has to be a constant. We were in a hole from the beginning. They hit some threes early and our defense wasn’t good enough in the first half. It seemed like we were fighting to get back.”
The Panthers started off rough missing two of their first four free throws and to make matters worse, Tray Woodall, their leader went down with an injury and took a while to get up.
“He’s our leader and our captain,” Patterson said of Woodall. “When anyone that important goes down, you definitely have to find a different rhythm. Once we found it, it was more of the rebounding that really affected us.”
Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams knew what Woodall means to this Pitt team.
“Losing Woodall completely changes the complexion of the team,” Williams said.
With the injury, someone needed to step up and that was Durand Johnson. He scored seven points in the first half and finished with 10 points.
“When I saw Tray go down, I just wanted to bring my defensive energy and bring the team up,” Johnson said.
The game was very hard fought and physical and heading into the first media timeout, it was Marquette on top thanks to Juan Anderson who converted a three and made two free throws.
The Panthers also struggled out of the gates going 1-8 from the field allowing Marquette to take the lead.
Dante Taylor provided a spark when J.J. Moore made a post pass that resulted in a basket and the foul to cut the Golden Eagle lead to 11-7.
The physicality was present throughout the first half as evidenced by three injuries which included Woodall but also Derrick Wilson and Junior Cadougan. Wilson did come back later in the first half. Woodall would be out for the game with a concussion.
The Panthers would keep things close and Lamar Patterson making two from three point range definitely helped that cause.
Then, Johnson woke up. He made a two despite plenty of contact and then made another and a foul to give his team a 28-27 lead.
Marquette would retake the lead and Cadougan, back in the game made a two but was also called for an offensive foul.
A controversial call came at the half when Johnson took a shot that appeared to be going in but Talib Zanna tipped it in. The officials ruled no basket angering the fans and at the half, the Golden Eagles led 33-30.
In the first half, Marquette shot 61.1% from the field as opposed to Pitt’s 37.5%. The Panthers pounded the offensive boards to a 7-3 advantage in the first half.
The center position was a weakness in the first half as Steven Adams did not attempt a shot and Taylor only had the three points from that one play. This would change in the second half when Adams took his first shot of the game and converted it. Marquette would continue their steady play and led 42-36 with 13:57 to play in the second half.
Patterson would heat up scoring five consecutive points around the middle of the half, but Marquette again kept a steady head and Blue continued to lead the offense hitting double digits.
Just when it looked as if Pitt was about to fade away, Johnson brought them back with a three to make it 50-48 in Marquette’s favor with 5:08 to play in regulation.
Down the stretch, Marquette stayed ahead despite a roudy Oakland Zoo. With 19.5 seconds to play, Davante Gardner overshot his target giving the Panthers a final shot down 57-54 with 19.5 seconds left in the second half.
An out of bounds play meant that there were 10 second left to make a play and an out of bounds on Marquette gave 1.4 seconds left in regulation.
The inbounds pass from James Robinson was to Patterson who drained a three pointer to force overtime and bring the crowd to its feet.
“I hit it, but we didn’t come up with it in overtime,” Patterson said. “I saw that it was going to be there because of the way they were playing it but it was just a defensive mistake on their end.”
Marquette had designed a defense however according to Williams, guard Trent Lockett was not in the right spot and it cost them.
“I thought we were in a great spot,” Williams said. “I don’t think they scored off their play. Patterson was the safety. We looked like clowns.”
In the overtime period it came down to free throws. Marquette made theirs and Pitt missed theirs which essentially summarized much of the game as well.
Blue’s eight big free throws as well as a basket put Marquette up 65-59 with 1:09 to play in the overtime period.
“We wanted to come out and deliver the first blow in overtime,” Blue said “We didn’t get let down when they tied it up. We had to treat it like it was a 0-0 game and I thought we came out strong in overtime. It was a big win in a tough place to play.”
From there the Golden Eagles made the needed free throws and despite two Patterson threes were able to pull out the win.
“We did it to ourselves,” Patterson said. “We took a couple errant shots to start overtime. We really hurt ourselves in this one.
The win put Marquette at 3-0 in the Big East and in the process got their first road victory of the season.
“I wish it was the last game of the season, I think it says a lot. The problem is that it has the same value as the other 15 that we have to play before we get to New York, so we’re thankful that we get to have a happy on the way home, but we’re also aware that we have eight more. For us to be in the middle of January and only win one road game, I think it was a good one. We’re thankful for the win.”
Coming off a win against Georgetown that had fans excited that the Panthers were back on track, a crowd of 12,513 people including a sold out Oakland Zoo expected a win but it did not turn out that way.
“Coming into this game, I’m sure a lot of people didn’t have us winning,” Blue said.
Pitt next travels to Villanova where the two teams will meet Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be on ESPN-U.
They said it: Dixon on Woodall- “We’ll have to find out where he’s at. The process in place is that even if he says he’s fine, he’ll be out for 48 hours.”
Of note: The Panthers were 13-26 from the foul line.