The 2011-12 campaign will be seen as a disappointing one for the Pittsburgh Panthers. There’s no way to get around that for a team expected by many to contend for a Big East title.
But not only was Jamie Dixon’s team able to continue playing following their Big East Championship loss to Georgetown, they were able to win a championship.
Without the services of an injured Ashton Gibbs the Panthers (22-17) beat Washington State 71-65 in Game 3 of the CBI championship series.
Tray Woodall led the way with 17 points and seven assists, and Lamar Patterson led four other Panthers in double figures with 14 to go along with eight rebounds and five assists.
Reggie Moore paced Washington State (19-18) with 18 points and five assists, but the absence of leading scorer Brock Motum proved to be too much for Ken Bone’s team to overcome.
Two J.J. Moore free throws after being fouled on a 3-pointer sparked a 14-4 Pitt run over a 7-minute stretch, giving the Panthers a 58-48 lead with 6:38 remaining.
From that point onward the Cougars would get no closer than six points, dropping the decisive game of the series despite shooting 63% from inside of the arc.
Pitt made 20 of their 33 shots inside of the arc and those three extra 2-point field goals proved to be the difference.
Pittsburgh does lose Gibbs and Nasir Robinson from their rotation but the experience for the likes of Moore, Talib Zanna and their other youngsters could pay dividends next season.
Add in big man Steven Adams and point guard James Robinson, and it shouldn’t be unrealistic to expect the Panthers to return to the Big Dance in 2012-13.
The good news for Washington State is that Moore, Motum and DeVonte Lacy will all return to Pullman next season, which should buffer the losses of Marcus Capers and Abe Lodwick.
Bone will add a recruiting class led by guard Demarquise Johnson and forward Richard Longrus, twoo players capable of earning minutes from the moment they step on campus.