Pitt musters only 43 points against Wisconsin in first-round NCAA tournament loss
March 18, 2016 9:36 PM
The Pitt bench reacts to the final seconds of their team's loss to Wisconsin Friday of the first round of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.
Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes gets a piece of Pitt's Jamel Artis as he goes for the ball in the first half Friday of the first round of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.
Pitt's Rafael Maia pulls down a rebound against Wisconsin's Ethan Happ in the first half Friday of the first round of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon calls out to his team as they take on Wisconsin in the first half Friday of the first round of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.
Pitt's James Robinson looks for room against Wisconsin's Ethan Happ in the first half Friday of the first round of the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
ST. LOUIS — James Robinson has had plenty of big moments in his Pitt career but Friday he wasn’t able to add a shining one.
Robinson drove the lane with about six seconds left and let go of a little floater that would have in all likelihood pushed the Panthers into the second round had it found its mark.
Instead, the ball missed its mark and was rebounded by Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, and the Panthers’ season came to a crashing halt. The Badgers held on to beat the Panthers, 47-43, in an NCAA tournament East Region first round game at Scottrade Center.
Luther reacts to loss to Wisconsin
Pitt's Ryan Luther reacts to his team's loss to Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament Friday. (Video by Matt Freed; 3/18/2016)
“I just tried to get a good shot and I ran into my teammate,” said Robinson, who did bump into Mike Young as he drove the lane, knocking him a little off balance. “That’s what it came down to. We wanted to just get the best shot, I didn’t mean to run into him.
“And he didn’t mean to run into me, it just happened.”
It was another devastating loss in March for the No. 10 seed Panthers, who have not advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament since their Elite Eight run of 2008-09.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said it was a frustrating loss because the Panthers played great defensively, held the Badgers best player, Nigel Hayes, to a 3-of-17 shooting performance, yet couldn’t score enough points to win the game.
The Panthers’ output, in fact, of 43 points was their lowest point total in an NCAA tournament game since 1941 when they lost 36-30 to, well, Wisconsin.
That score, though, probably had a lot to do with the way the game was played back then as there was no 3-point line and no shot clock. This score was a product of bad offense as the Panthers made just 18 of 48 field goal attempts (37.5 percent) and were only 3 of 11 from the 3-point line (27.3).
“We defended,” Dixon said. “It just came down to making some shots or not making some shots and getting to the free-throw line. But we played hard, we played together and we played smart. I also think we let the rebounding get away from us in the second half.
“We played through some adversity and we did put ourselves in a position to win a number of times but we didn’t get it done. One of our goals was to get to the foul line more than they did but they got to the foul line more.”
Dixon is right, the Badgers did shoot more free throws than the Panthers did (15 to 7) but four of Wisconsin’s free throws came in the final two seconds after Robinson’s missed shot. So, there wasn’t really that much of a difference in points from the line, but the Panthers did have early foul trouble in the second half. The Badgers were in the bonus with 15 minutes to play.
That changed the game a little, but as Dixon said, the Panthers played through it and had several opportunities to win.
“The fouls were key in the second half,” Jamel Artis said. “But that didn’t lose the game. We had a lot of opportunities to win the game. It was little rebounds and stuff like that and we have to hit free throws at the end, basically.”
Pitt had two good chances to put the Badgers away in the second half but the Panthers could not widen their five-point leads.
Pitt looked like it was going down with about a minute to play as it trailed, 44-40, and Wisconsin had the ball.
But the Panthers got new life when Hayes missed a contested layup, the Panthers cleared the rebound and pushed the ball up the court to get into their offense.
The Panthers ran a good set and got the ball to Artis, who buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to pull Pitt to within 44-43 with 40.8 seconds to play.
Wisconsin again came up empty on the next possession.
Robinson got the ball with about nine seconds to play, drove the length of the floor and got into the lane. That’s when he bumped into Young, who was crashing the boards, and the ball rolled over the rim and bounced off several hands before Happ grabbed it to secure the win.
“The shooting hurt us, but I mentioned it three or four times, the rebounds [cost the game],” Dixon said. “We were up six in the first half and we ended up down by one so we got outrebounded by seven in the second half.”
As Dixon said, the Panthers defense was tremendous, not just on Hayes, but on the entire team. The Badgers shot only 32.1 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from the 3-point line.
“I lost the guy for one 3-pointer in the first half, other than that I don’t know that they got many, if any good looks,” said Sheldon Jeter.
“But I’m stunned we didn’t win. It just can be a cruel game when the ball doesn’t go into hoop for you.”
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise
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