Generally speaking, games between eight and nine-seeds tend to be close. This would not be the case in Thursday’s South Region matchup between No. 8 seed Colorado and No. 9 seed Pittsburgh, with the Panthers controlling the action from start to finish in the 77-48 victory.
Jamie Dixon’s Panthers (26-9) scored the first 13 points of the game and led 21-5 with 10:59 remaining in the first half, effectively removing any drama from the proceedings in Orlando. The margin of victory is the largest in Pittsburgh’s NCAA tournament history, and it’s also the largest margin in an 8/9 game since Michigan beat Tennessee 75-42 in 2011.
Pitt grabbed control with its play on the defensive end, most notably their big-on-big doubles of Colorado’s Josh Scott. Scott tends to struggle passing out of double-teams and the Panthers took advantage of this, forcing him well out of the post. And Colorado didn’t cut as sharply as needed to make a team pay for such decisions, leaving Scott without the passing options needed to beat the doubles.
Pitt has now won six of its last eight games, making strides on both ends of the floor. Against Colorado, Pitt shot 50.8% from the field and assisted on 18 of their 30 made field goals. Talib Zanna scored 18 points to lead a balanced scoring effort, with guard James Robinson dishing out eight assists. And in Zanna, the Panthers have a front court player capable of giving Florida’s big men a tough time inside should the Gators take care of Albany.
Colorado shot just 35.7% from the field, with guard Askia Booker making just two of his nine shots from the field. Colorado ends its season with a record of 23-12.