Pitt loses Big East opener to Cincinnati, 70-61

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No. 8 Cincinnati came back from an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat No. 24 Pitt, 70-61, in the Big East opener for both teams today at the Petersen Events Center.

Cashmere Wright led Cincinnati (13-1, 1-0) with 19 points. Talib Zanna led the Panthers (12-2, 0-1) with 16.

Pitt led 34-26 at halftime, but Cincinnati dominated play in the second half and took its first lead of the game after Titus Rubles converted a 3-point play for a 45-43 lead with 10:14 remaining. Pitt never held a lead again.

The Bearcats took a 45-40 lead after Wright made a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down and stretched the lead to seven several times through the remainder of the game. The Panthers had an opportunity to make it interesting with 1:27 to go. Down 62-59, Tray Woodall stepped to the line after being fouled after making a steal in the backcourt. But Woodall missed and the Bearcats closed the game out from the foul line.

After a hot-shooting first half, the Panthers could not find an offensive rhythm after halftime. Cincinnati's pressure defense bothered the Panthers and forced bad decisions and poor shot selection.

After shooting 29 percent in the first half, Cincinnati dissected Pitt's defense after halftime and pounded the offensive boards for second-chance points and multiple possessions.

Pitt took its eight-point lead into the locker room at halftime after scoring the final eight points before halftime. The Panthers jumped out to an early lead and never trailed in the half. They held a 14-6 lead after Cameron Wright made a jumper.

Cincinnati came back and tied the score at 26 after Shaquille Thomas scored off an offensive rebound with 3:31 remaining in the half. The Bearcats had possession and a chance to take a lead for the first time after a Pitt miss, but Lamar Patterson stole the ball in the backcourt and dunked, which ignited the 8-0 run to end the half.

Zanna had 10 of his points in the first half as the Panthers shot 48 percent from the field. Cincinnati shot just 29 percent and had to play without leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick for 11 minutes because he picked up two fouls.

Pitt was in the same boat. Woodall only played 12 minutes because he had two early fouls. He was forced to enter the game late in the half when James Robinson exited after picking up his second foul.

Both teams combined for 23 fouls in the half and went to the foul line 30 times. Cincinnati was 9 for 16 from the line in the first half while Pitt was 10 for 14.

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Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.


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