Panthers ousted by Orange in final Big East tournament
NEW YORK — A poor opening half kept Pittsburgh from having a chance at a last long run in the Big East tournament.
The 17th-ranked Panthers fell behind by 13 points at halftime and even a tough run near the end of the game wasn’t enough to avoid a 62-59 loss to No. 19 Syracuse on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
The fourth-seeded Panthers used a 10-3 run to get within 58-57 with 30 seconds left but Syracuse guard Michael Carter-Williams didn’t miss from the free throw line to keep the fifth-seeded Orange in front to the end.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed in the loss, but I’m proud of how our guys fought back in the second half,” Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. “We obviously dug a hole for ourselves in the first half, but I could see how hard we played and the effort. Simply put, the first half we didn’t play our defense. That dug the hole for us. That’s why we were where we’re at and why we weren’t able to make up the 13-point deficit.”
Against Pitt, James Southerland and Carter-Williams kept Syracuse’s run at one more Big East title alive.
Both schools are leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. They didn’t disappoint the sellout crowd, providing one last great game before they head south.
“We know that this means a lot to us, as a basketball team and as a program,” Syracuse’s Brandon Triche said. “This can very much jump-start us to the (NCAA) tournament.”
The fifth-seeded Orange (25-8) advanced to the semifinals against top-seeded Georgetown.
“We were prepared to come into this tournament and win,” Pittsburgh’s Tray Woodall said. “I was disappointed, but I guess now we’ve got to focus on the NCAA tournament. As you saw in the second half, we played our style of basketball, as Coach said. ... We’ll dwell on it for a few hours tonight, and then we have to move on.”
Southerland had 20 points as he did in the second-round win over Seton Hall and again almost all the points came from beyond the 3-point arc. The senior forward was 6-for-6 on 3s against Pittsburgh — the Big East tournament record for 3s without a miss — a day after going 6-for-9 from beyond the arc against Seton Hall.
Carter-Williams had 11 points and seven assists.
Lamar Patterson had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the fourth-seeded Panthers (24-8), who will certainly receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
“Obviously, we wanted to win this tournament, and now we’re going to be going home, and it’s disappointing,” Dixon said. “I think that was really the main focus of ours, we were here to win today and win this tournament. ... We were focused on winning this tournament, and we were focused on winning this game, and now we’ve got to go focus on getting ready for the NCAA tournament.”
Woodall had 12 points for Pittsburgh, which had been to the championship game seven of the last 12 years.