Many thought the Pitt Panthers were slighted a bit from the selection committee when they only received a No. 8 seed,
As it turns out, the committee had it spot on.
Instead of using the low seed as possible motivation for a tournament run, Jamie Dixon’s team came out as flat as possible and played as poorly as they have all season long, watching their season come to an end in a 73-55 embarrassing loss to Wichita State in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
The story of the game was shooting, or to be exact, the lack of shooting from Pitt (24-9) that played a major role in their downfall.
The Panthers struggled early on, only making 7-of-23 (30.4 percent) of their shot attempts in the first half, which included missing all seven of their three-point attempts. Add in the fact that Pitt was very sloppy with the basketball, turning it over eight times in the game’s first 20 minutes, the Panthers were fortunate to only be down 26-21 at the break.
But things didn’t get much better during the final 20 minutes.
Pitt fell behind by double-digits early in the second half, but made a charge and pulled within four when Durand Johnson canned the Panthers only three-point attempt on the afternoon. The Panthers crept back within four at 35-31 after James Robinson made a layup and subsequent free-throw, but on the ensuing possession J.J. Moore rushed a three-pointer early in the shot clock and the Shockers turned it into a transition three from Tekele Cotton to put Wichita State (27-8) back up by seven at 38-31. That would be as close at Pitt would get as they were outscored 35-20 the remainder of the game.
Dixon’s team got looks at the basket all game long, but just couldn’t make shots, finishing the game making only 35.2 percent (19-of-54) of their attempts and a miserable 1-of-17 (5.9 percent) performance from behind the arc.
Almost everyone wearing a Pitt uniform had a bad game, but none worse than senior guard Tray Woodall who went 1-of-12 from the floor and turned the ball over five times in his final collegiate game. Add to the fact that Lamar Patterson made only 1-of-7 attempts, Robinson 2-of-7, Johnson 1-of-5 and Talib Zanna 1-of-4 and it turned out to be a struggle to find offense all afternoon long.
Pitt’s ability to go 10 deep didn’t help as they got only 20 points from their reserves.
The only bright spot for the Panthers was the performance of freshman Steven Adams, who turned in a 13 point, 11 rebound effort, leading the team in both departments.
Wichita State didn’t shoot the ball much better (38.8 percent), but they got to the free-throw line a whopping 41 times, making an impressive 33 of those attempts. Only Marquette (twice) has scored 73 points or more against a good defensive Pitt team and one of the Marquette games went into overtime. However after a slow start, the Shockers made 11-of-21 attempt in the second half.
Shockers’ guard Malcolm Armstead was tough to stop all afternoon, finishing with a game-high 22 points, with 13 of those coming after the half. Cleanthony Early was just as effective, scoring 21 off the bench.
Pitt’s staple is defending and rebounding, but the Shockers played the Panthers game but did it better.
They were outstanding defensively and outrebounded Pitt 30-28, grabbing 10 offensive rebounds in the process. In addition they forced a Pitt team that normally takes great care of the basketball into 15 turnovers.
The Shockers advance to the third round of the Big Dance where they will likely draw No. 1 seed Gonzaga on Saturday.
For Dixon and the Panthers it’s another early NCAA Tournament exit and unfortunately another early vacation.