No. 15 San Diego State hammers Pitt, 74-57
LAHAINA, Hawaii — No. 15 San Diego State, the team that allegedly couldn’t shoot straight, shot Pitt right out of Tuesday night’s Maui Invitational.
The Panthers, meanwhile, regarded annually for their defensive prowess, were toasted by an opponent that entered the game shooting only 39.5 percent from the field.
The result was a 74-57 Pitt loss at Lahaina Civic Center. The Panthers (3-2) will play Kansas State (3-2) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the tournament’s third-place game.
San Diego State meets No. 2 Arizona in a battle of 5-0 teams for the championship at 10 p.m.
It isn’t often Pitt is physically manhandled, but that was the case Tuesday — at least in the first half, when San Diego State shot 62.5 percent and led 39-25 at halftime.
The Aztecs finished the game shooting 58.7 percent and blocked 10 shots.
“They just wanted it more as a team,” Pitt sophomore forward Michael Young said.
San Diego State was too big, too fast and too strong, but the Panthers already knew that.
What caught everyone by surprise was the Aztecs’ offensive wizardry against a team coached by Jamie Dixon, who won’t hesitate to sit one of his players for poor defense — no matter how good they are offensively.
Dixon went to his bench often in the first half, searching for a combination to slow San Diego State’s runaway train. He found no answers.
“They’re good, and we’re not defensively where we need to be,” Dixon said. “We just didn’t handle well what they did, and that’s my fault. They’re a good team, and it showed.”
San Diego State’s Trey Kell scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half.
“Some of their bigs were hedging a little soft so we were able to take advantage of that and take it to the rim,” Kell, who went 7 of 9 from the floor.
Young, who recorded his first career double-double in Monday’s victory over Chaminade, opened with two baskets in the first five minutes but was held scoreless the remainder of the half. San Diego State neutralized him with an array of big, athletic defenders.
Young had eight points and seven rebounds. Senior Derrick Randall, who scored 11 points and grabbed a career-high 21 rebounds against Chaminade, recorded two points and one rebound a day later.
“We made it difficult for them to get easy shots,” San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said.
Without Young’s steadying offensive presence — and with Pitt’s defense unable to come up with consistent stops — it was only a matter of time before San Diego State put the game out of reach.
Pitt had one last opportunity to rally early in the second half when freshman Ryan Luther’s 3-pointer reduced the deficit to 45-32. But once again, the Panthers’ defense betrayed them as San Diego State continued to score at will.
Pitt trailed 60-39 with a little more than seven minutes remaining, and that was that for the Panthers’ comeback.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].