Many came in thinking that the Pittsburgh Panthers deserved to be better ranked and that Wichita State did not deserve an NCAA Tournament berth. Both of those theories were put to rest when the Shockers won 73-55.
Undersized, Wichita State was able to win for a variety of reasons:
1. Defense- The Panthers were visably frustrated the whole game and no one more so than senior Tray Woodall. His Panthers career ends with arguably his worst game. 1-12 from the field and two points left him in tears. ” It’s a bitter taste in my mouth to end my career with one of the worst games I’ve ever played in my history,” Woodall said after the game to reporters. “I’m sorry I let my team down. One of the worst games I’ve ever played. Woodall was not the only one though as the team shot 35% from the field and made just one of 17 three point attempts, a 5.9% clip. Furthermore, the Panthers had 15 turnovers, something which is very unlike them.
2. Rebounding- Both teams pride themselves on battling and grabbing rebounds. These teams were identical but the rebounding battle was +5 in favor of the Shockers. From the beginning, rebounding was said to be a key and would help determine a winner.
3. Early and Armstead- The Panthers just did not have an answer for Cleanthony Early and Malcolm Armstead plain and simple. The two combined for 43 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. These two scored just 12 points less than what the Panthers put together as a team. The Shockers shot 52.4% from the field in the second half to blow the game open and these two were a huge part of that.
4. Call and respond- Much of the first half was cat and mouse. Often it was Wichita State who would strike as the Panthers would try and come back. It seemed as though that in reality from the opening tip, Wichita State controlled the tempo as Pitt tried forcing things. This was proven in the second half when those shots that were not falling for the Shockers started to drop, and that was game over.
On the bright side for the Panthers, Steven Adams was the lone Panther to get in double figured getting a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Still Adams has been like a yo-yo and his play goes up and down. Sometimes he can be assertive, but often he appears tentative trying to make the extra pass instead of using his size as an advantage.
“He kept battling and kept going and was active around the glass,” Dixon said following the game. “We tried to get the ball inside to him more. But it seems like he got touches, threw it back out and we didn’t make good plays out of that. But he’s going to be a great player, there is no question.”
The Panthers now must say good-bye to seniors Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor and hello to the ACC. Whether or not it is also a good-bye to Adams remains to be seen.
“Today was not our day,” Dixon said. “We didn’t play well in a facet, really, and sorry that it ended this way for those guys. We will thank them again for all they have done for us over their career, but truly did not play the way we need to do play.