After a second half of back and forth basketball, Pitt held on to advance past Butler and into the CBI Finals with an overtime 68-62 win.
After a quick glance at the box score, you might be scratching your head as to how the Panthers pulled this one out. Star guard Ashton Gibbs didn’t only have a bad game, but he was held scoreless for the first time all season. He was 0-8 from the field and couldn’t get anything going all night. Fellow senior Nasir Robinson didn’t play well, either, going 1-8 and scoring only two points.
Their play was overcome, in part, by the bench. Pitt’s reserves had one of their best games all season, scoring a combined 35 points. Talib Zanna and J.J. Moore had the big games, with a combined 29 points and 13 rebounds. Their play is extremely encouraging considering both are expected to play key roles next season. Neither has been entirely consistent this year, but they have really played well in the tournament.
The Panthers looked out of it, trailing by four with about two minutes left in regulation. But the defense held strong and Pitt made four consecutive free throws to tie it up late. Down three, the Panthers’ Lamar Patterson made a huge three-pointer with under a minute left. Pitt committed a costly foul with four seconds on the clock, reminding fans of the disaster that was the 2011 NCAA Tournament game between the two schools. But Butler surprisingly missed both free throws to send the game to overtime, giving Pitt a second chance. Free throws played a big part in the decision as Pitt shot 80% to Butler’s 57%.
Tray Woodall didn’t play well much of the game, but he may have been Pitt’s MVP tonight. The junior point guard scored nine of his 12 points in overtime and was perfect from the field and free throw line. He overcame a sluggish start and really propelled Pitt to victory.
Up next for Pitt is the winner of Washington State and Oregon State in a best of three championship round.
For more on the CBI Finals and Pitt basketball, check out SB Nation blog, Cardiac Hill.