Badgers kill Pitt NCAA hopes, 47-43

Pitt Men's Basketball Coach, Jamie Dixon, signals to players from the sideline. John Hamilton | Staff Photographer

With twelve seconds left in the game, Pitt guard James Robinson grabbed the defensive rebound with his team trailing Wisconsin 44-43.

Rushing up the court and driving to the hoop,  Robinson tossed up a tough layup after bumping into his own teammate, Michael Young. The shot fell short, as did the Panthers hopes of making a NCAA tournament run, falling to the Badgers 47-43 Friday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO.

In most games, holding an opponent to 47 points will produce a win. This was not most games.

Both teams operated at a snail-like pace offensively. To match, both teams seldom found the bottom of the hoop, as the Panthers shot 18-48 (37.5 percent), while the Badgers shot 17-53 (32.1 percent).

In such a slow-paced, defensive oriented game, it was the extra possessions that counted. For Wisconsin, its four less turnovers— 6 to Pitt’s 10— and five more free throws made— 9 to 4— proved to be the difference.

The Panthers got off to a hot start, rushing off to a 10-3 lead at the first TV timeout a little over six minutes into the game.

Pitt’s defense was impressive in the run, playing physically and making it tough for Wisconsin to find quality shots. The Badgers offense was 1-10 to start the game.

Meanwhile, James Robinson scored six of Pitt’s first ten points, four on mid range jumpers and two on a tough layup in traffic.

That strong early start for Robinson proved to be an anomaly for the rest of the game, as Pitt’s senior point guard missed his last 10 shots, shooting 3-14 on the game.

With both teams working at a laborious pace, the scoring pace remained low for the rest of the first half. Though Pitt’s offense wasn’t crisp, it found decent shots at a better rate than Wisconsin.

The Panthers, too, controlled the boards in the half, limiting the Badgers second chance points, while generating some of their own on misses. The total would even out though, as Wisconsin won the final rebounding battle 37-36.

After holding a double-digit lead for roughly five straight minutes, Badger forward Nigel Hayes cut Pitt’s lead to eight with a mid-range jumper. A Vitto Brown three trimmed the lead further to six, causing Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon to call a timeout with 28 seconds remaining in the half.

Hayes, Wisconsin’s leading scorer on the year, was held in check for almost the entirety of the game, shooting 3 of 17 from the field.

The deficit would remain the same at the half, as the Panthers led 22-16 at the break.

The Badgers continued to cut the lead right out of the break, with a smooth spin move from forward Ethan Happ leading to layup and Panther foul. Happ would make the free throw, and after Brown knocked down a jumper, Pitt’s lead sat at 24-23, prompting a Dixon timeout.

Pitt had no answer for Happ all game, who routinely bested Pitt’s big men with slick footwork and nifty post moves. He made 6 of of his 8 shots for 15 points, a game high.

Shortly after, Happ slammed in a dunk, giving Wisconsin the lead. It was a short lived lead though, as the next possession Michael Young grabbed a Sheldon Jeter miss, gathered himself, and converted a layup despite the foul.

After minimal Pitt fouling in the first half, Wisconsin got into the bonus after a Cameron Johnson foul with 15:06 remaining in the game.

At the TV timeout about midway through the second half, Pitt led 34-29 following a Jeter mid-range jumper.

Struggling for most of the game, Hayes hit two throws and converted a layup to help trim Pitt’s lead to 36-35. A Brown three following a TV timeout with just under six minutes left gave the Badgers the lead.

But Artis quickly answered with a three of his own as the shot clock dwindled down on Pitt’s possession.

With 2:37 left in the game, it was Brown again coming up big, converting another three to give the Badgers a 42-20 lead. Another Happ bucket upped Wisconsin’s lead to four, but was trimmed to one after Artis hit a three with 41 seconds left in the game.

Following Robinson’s missed layup attempt, three made free throws secured the lead for Wisconsin.

The first round loss continues a recent Pitt trend of early NCAA tournament exits. Pitt has not made a sweet sixteen since 2009.

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