Rushed Reactions: #9 Wichita State 73, #8 Pittsburgh 55

Posted by AMurawa on March 21st, 2013

Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent. Andrew is covering the Salt Lake City pod of the West Regional this weekend.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. Out-Tough. One of the concerns I had for Wichita State coming into the game was their ability to hang with Pitt, one of the nation’s best rebounding teams, on the glass. Despite being undersized almost all the way across the board, it was the Shockers who, shockingly, owned the glass. They grabbed 34.4% of their own misses and turned those boards into 14 points. The Shockers also earned their way to the line more than twice as much as the Panthers, getting to the line 41 times and converting 33 of their attempts from back there. And, perhaps most importantly, even as Pitt senior guard Tray Woodall admitted, the Shockers “got to most of the loose balls.” In a battle of two teams whose identity is based around toughness, the winner here was the team that was the toughest.

    Cleanthony Early was outstanding for the Shockers. (AP)

    Cleanthony Early was a big reason why the Shockers advanced to the third round. (AP)

  2. Sometimes You Just Gotta Make Shots. It’s easy to look at the stat sheet and say, oh, Pitt was awful. But the Panthers got what they wanted at times on offense, getting into the lane and creating more shots in the paint than anywhere else. All told, 28 of their 54 shot attempts came within five feet of the basket, and yet, the Panthers missed 13 of those 28 attempts. Even worse, the Panthers only made six shots all day from outside of five feet, going 6/26 on jumpers. Sometimes it’s a real simple game; you gotta make shots.
  3. Not A Thing Of Beauty. As you could have anticipated when this game first showed up in the bracket, this game was not exactly the type of game that is going to bring in a ton of new fans. Not that it wasn’t well played at times – it was, with both teams running good offense and playing hard-nosed defense – but it was rough and tumble, physical under the hoop and out at the perimeter. And, with neither team featuring many great jumpshooters or finishers, even when that good offense resulted in good looks, often those good looks went awry. In the end, the teams combined for 3-of-37 shooting (8.1%) from behind the arc and a 38.3 eFG%.

Star of the Game. Malcolm Armstead, Wichita State. Armstead did everything for the Shockers today, leading all scorers with 22 points, handing out five assists and even chipping in on the boards with four, including a couple offensive rebounds. And on a night where it seemed like just about everybody else had trouble shooting the ball, Armstead made 6-of-14 shots from the field and knocked down all nine of his free throws. Armstead didn’t limit his contributions to the offensive end either, as he was a key cog in helping to harass Pitt’s starting backcourt of Tray Woodall and James Robinson into 3-of-20 shooting and a seven turnovers. While Armstead gets the slight nod, his teammate Cleanthony Early also deserves mention, as he threw in 21 points and, normally more comfortable on the wing, helped out with seven rebounds, including three on the offensive end.

Sights & Sounds. Christmas Morning. As fans walked into the Energy Solutions Arena in downtown Salt Lake City, they were treated to a light snowfall that fell throughout the morning, the perfect touches for the Christmas morning for college basketball fans. Not heavy enough to cause any real problems in transit, just  a pretty little snowfall to make the whole thing a little more magical.

Wildcard. Steven Adams. Pitt’s big 7′ has had an up-and-down freshman year, leading the team in rebounding, but only scoring in double figures five times before today. Well, today in the biggest game of the year, Adams had likely his best game, registering his second double-double with 13 points and 11 boards on five-of-seven shooting. Assuming he returns for his sophomore season, never a sure bet when you’re talking about a seven-footer, he should be a guy to keep an eye on.

What’s Next?  Wichita State moves on to the third round, likely to face Gonzaga on Saturday in what should be an epic battle between non-major conference teams. If the Shockers can duplicate their effort on the glass, they have the type of athletic guards that could give Gonzaga’s guards problems. For Pittsburgh, their season is done and the next big question is whether or not head coach Jamie Dixon will still be there next season, once he considers the reported offers from USC to be their next head basketball coach. If you read the tea leaves just a little bit in Dixon’s post-game press-conference, when he was talking about the future of guys like Adams, he mentioned how much he was looking forward to “watching these guys” next year, before he caught himself and corrected that to “coaching these guys” next year.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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