Following up on a successful and promising ACC tournament showing last week, the Pitt Panthers learned their fate on Selection Sunday.
Pitt was deemed a No. 9 seed, setting up a battle with eighth-seeded Colorado in Orlando, Fla. The winner would more than likely play the No. 1 team in the country, the 32-2 Florida Gators in the Round of 32.
Pitt made some history Thursday afternoon, demolishing Colorado 77-48 for the Panthers’ largest margin of victory in a tournament game. In a game where they could do whatever they pleased, the Panthers (26-9, 11-7 ACC) played nearly perfect at Amway Center.
Pitt senior center Talib Zanna had 18 points, four assists and hauled in four rebounds, while junior guard Cameron Wright tallied 11 points, four rebounds and three steals. Senior guard Lamar Patterson added 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Surprisingly, the last time that Pitt had beaten a team seeded better than them in the NCAA tourney was in 1981, when the Panthers won 70-69 in OT over seventh-seeded Idaho.
The Buffaloes didn’t have their leading scorer, Spencer Dinwiddie, who had torn his ACL in January. They certainly wish they had him for this one.
Pitt came out in a groove and absolutely thrashed Colorado in the first half, leading 46-18 after 20 minutes. The Buffaloes went into the break facing its largest deficit all season and with their lowest point total in a half.
In the first half for Pitt, Zanna scored 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting and hauled in three rebounds, while Wright scored 10 points. Forwards Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon each scored five for Colorado.
Pitt surged out to a 13-0 lead before Gordon knocked down a 3-pointer at the 14:20 mark. The Buffaloes could not handle Pitt’s pressure, nor could they stop the Panthers’ efficient offense.
Keep in mind that Pitt only scored 48 total points against Virginia in the ACC semifinals. In the first half, Pitt shot 62.1 percent (18-29) compared to Colorado’s 29.4 percent (5-17). The Panthers outrebounded the Buffaloes 15-8 and had big advantages in assists (13-0) and steals (8-1).
Colorado had 10 turnovers compared to one by Pitt. This was the largest halftime lead in Panthers tournament history. Aside from a few missed layups, Pitt essentially played a perfect half in its first game of the tournament.
The second half was more of the same for Pitt, as walk-ons received playing time near the end of the game. Pitt certainly didn’t have a letdown, and the Panthers cruised into the Round of 32. Pitt’s largest lead of 32 points came at the 11:04 mark when James Robinson knocked down a 3-pointer.
Pitt finished the game with a better shooting percentage (51%-36%), more rebounds (33-29), more assists (18-5), more steals (12-2), more blocks (3-0) and fewer turnovers (3-17) than Colorado.
Truly, this was a dominant performance, similar to what we had seen against Wake Forest and North Carolina last week.
Pitt will face the winner of Florida and Albany on Saturday in Orlando. Tipoff time is yet to be determined.