PITTSBURGH – After sharing a plane ride across the country and playing a second game in three nights Wednesday night, Washington State and Pitt just can’t get enough of each other.
They’ll play a third game Friday night to decide the College Basketball Invitational after the Panthers held off the Cougars, 57-53, at the Petersen Events Center on Pitt’s campus.
Washington State junior guard Reggie Moore scored 16 of his game-high 18 points in the second half to help the Cougars overcome a 10-point deficit with 10 minutes remaining. Moore tied the score at 49 with two free throws with 1:42 remaining, but Pitt sophomore Lamar Patterson made a big shot on the next possession and then made two free throws with 3.6 seconds to go after the Cougars cut the lead to two in a frantic final 9 seconds.
“We were feeling pretty good at that point,” Moore said of the moments after he tied the score. “We were feeling pretty good the whole game. Even at halftime, we just said we had to step it up.
“We weren’t playing as well as we could. In the second half we played better. It felt like we were going to win that one.”
Pitt led 55-49 as the clock ticked down for what figured to be an uneventful final 9 seconds, but Pitt freshman John Johnson was called for a flagrant foul after getting tangled up with Washington State senior forward Abe Lodwick.
Lodwick made both free throws to make it a four-point game. Washington State maintained possession of the ball, and Moore drove the lane for a layup with 4.9 seconds remaining.
It looked like the Cougars were going to get a chance to tie it when Moore almost intercepted the inbounds pass from Nasir Robinson, but Moore landed out of bounds after a diving attempt to save it.
Pitt then inbounded to Patterson, who was fouled and made two free throws for the winning margin.
“I liked the way our guys competed, especially in the second half,” Cougars coach Ken Bone said.
Bone had to play a second consecutive game without leading scorer Brock Motum, who sprained an ankle in the Cougars’ semifinal victory against Oregon State. Bone said there is a “slim” chance Motum will play in the deciding third game of the series Friday night.
The Cougars won Game 1 in large part because of their ability to make 3-point shots. They made 9 of 15 Monday night, but the Panthers made sure they guarded the arc in Game 2. Lodwick, who made 4 of his 5 3-point attempts in the first game, was 1 for 5 in Game 2. Patrick Simon, who made 2 of 3 attempts in Game 1, did not score at all.
“We’re very comfortable in our home arena,” Bone said. “That probably helped with our shooting. But I felt like Pittsburgh did a great job guarding Abe and Patrick Simon, a couple of guys who hit 3s the other night. They did a nice job defending the 3.”
Bone said the familiarity between the two teams likely will produce another low-scoring game Friday night. Playing a third game in five days against an opponent is unique in college basketball, but the Cougars are hoping to make the most of their extended stay in Pittsburgh by bringing home a win in the final game of the season.
“It’s different, but I think it’s fun,” Bone said. “It’s unique. You have to change some things, but you don’t want to change too much. It’s kind of fun for a coach and I would imagine the players.”