Pitt loses to Wisconsin in 1st round of NCAA Tournament
ST. LOUIS — No. 10 seed Pitt stumbled through a sluggish second half and suffered a 47-43 loss to No. 7 Wisconsin in an East Regional matchup at Scottrade Center between two offensively challenged teams.
The Panthers got into a slugging match against the methodical, plodding Badgers — who love to get down and dirty — and lost.
“Defensively, we did what we wanted to do,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “It came down to making some shots and not making some shots.”
Pitt (21-12) scored only 21 second-half points and shot 37.5 percent in their second-lowest scoring game of the season. The Panthers had 41 points in a loss at Louisville in January.
“We found ourselves in a defensive battle and handled it good for about 35 minutes,” said Sheldon Jeter, a junior from Beaver Falls. “At the end of the game, the missed shots started to bother us.”
The biggest miss was James Robinson’s layup attempt with the Panthers trailing 44-43 and a chance to win in the closing seconds.
Robinson, who scored seven points on 3-of-15 shooting and added a game-high 11 rebounds, scampered upcourt after Wisconsin missed a free throw.
Robinson collided with teammate Michael Young, and his shot from the lane glanced off the rim and was rebounded by Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, who scored a game-high 15 points and had nine rebounds.
Wisconsin made two more free throws to seal the victory.
“It came down to us missing shots we normally make,” Robinson said.
Pitt’s Big Three of Robinson, Young (six points) and Jamel Artis (13 points on 4-of-10 shooting and the only Pitt player in double figures) combined for 23 points and made 10 of 32 shots.
Jeter was the Panthers’ second-leading scorer with nine points. Chris Jones, who returned to the starting lineup at shooting guard, scored all six of his points in the first half. Cameron Johnson, who started against Syracuse in the ACC Tournament, played 14 minutes and scored two points. Johnson shot 3 of 14 in his final two games.
Even with the Panthers playing strong defense, it wasn’t enough.
Wisconsin (21-12), which faces the winner of Friday’s late game between Xavier and Weber State on Sunday, won despite shooting only 32.1 percent. The Badgers opened the game missing nine of their first 10 attempts and improved to only 25 percent (6 of 24) at intermission.
Wisconsin’s leading scorer, Nigel Hayes, was held to 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting. The Panthers defense was rock-solid for most of the game.
At key points, however, the defense faltered.
The Panthers had an early 20-8 lead, but Wisconsin clawed back into the game.
The Badgers’ Vitto Brown delivered a crucial 3-pointer to slice Pitt’s halftime lead to 22-16.
“That hurt us,” Dixon said. “We didn’t finish at the end.”
“I made a defensive error and gave up the 3,” Jeter said.
What should have been a dominant first half for the Panthers began to unravel in the second half.
Wisconsin led for the first time, 25-24, on Happ’s dunk, but the Panthers took a 26-25 lead on Young’s putback. After Wisconsin made it 27-26, the Panthers parlayed an 8-2 run into a 34-29 lead on Jeter’s jumper.
Pitt hit a cold shooting stretch and failed to extend the lead. Wisconsin went ahead for good at 42-40 on another Brown 3-pointer.
“We had a couple open looks that didn’t go down,” Dixon said. “We wanted to increase that lead. Those were big. It kept them around.”