SALT LAKE CITY Wichita State routed Pittsburgh 73-55 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, a win that will get the Shockers some attention.
One more will bring all the college-basketball-following nation around to WSU. It will likely play top-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday with the winner advancing to the West Region semifinals, better known as the Sweet 16. The Zags played 16th-seeded Southern on Thursday.
The ninth-seeded Shockers (27-8) forced eighth-seeded Pitt (24-9) into a miserable shooting performance, beat the Panthers on the backboards and made enough shots to pull away in the second half. Malcolm Armstead led WSU with 22 points, 12 in the second half. Cleanthony Early added 19.
WSU won an NCAA game for the first time since 2006, losing in the second round last season to VCU.
WSU held Pitt guard Tray Woodall to two points, 12 below his average, on 1-of-12 shooting before he fouled out. Tekele Cotton handled Woodall most of the game.
The Panthers missed 16 of 17 three-pointers and committed 15 turnovers. WSU made 11 of 21 shots in the second half to escape from a defensive struggle.
WSU mucked its way to some scoring in the second half. Pitt never found a way to penetrate WSU’s man to man defense. The Panthers airball jumpers and missed a surprising number of shots in the lane.
Cotton’s corner three gave WSU a 38-31 lead. Carl Hall followed with a three-point play to expand the lead to 10 points. Cotton’s steal and dunk stopped a small run by Pitt and gave the Shockers a 45-35 lead. Another Cotton steal led to free throws for Early and a 12-point edge.
Armstead closed out the Panthers with a 5-0 run that gave WSU a 53-39 lead. Then he sliced through a press to find Early for a dunk and a 55-40 lead.
The first half unfolded as predicted. The teams locked in a defensive struggle and both missed open shots. The Shockers missed nine of their first 10 three-pointers. Pitt miss six of its first seven.
Early and Hall sat for long stretches in the first half with two fouls.
WSU’s offense picked up late in the half to build a 26-21 halftime lead. Early started a 7-0 run to end the half with a layup. Chadrack Lufile scored on a lob from Fred VanVleet.
After Pitt missed two shots in the lane, a jumpball went to the Shockers. After a review, officials called Pitt’s Lamar Patterson with a flagrant fouls, giving Ron Baker two fouls shots with 1:20 remaining. He made one for a 24-21 lead. The teams exchanged turnovers before Armstead followed in his own miss for a 26-21 lead.
The Panthers committed eight turnovers in the first half, leading to eight Shocker points.
Early led WSU with 10 points in 10 minutes. Dante Taylor led Pitt with five. WSU made 8 of 28 shots and 1 of 14 threes in the first half. Pitt made 7 of 23 shots and missed all seven of its three-pointers.
Check Paul Suellentrop’s Shocker blog at blogs.kansas.com/shockwaves. Reach him at 316-269-6760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.