PITTSBURGH – Washington State and Pitt hobbled their way into the College Basketball Invitational after injuries derailed their regular seasons.
On Friday night in the finale of the best-of-3 championship series, both teams were without their leading scorers, but Pitt was able to find just enough offense to outlast the Cougars and win the tournament.
Pitt used a 12-2 run midway through the second half to pull away for a 71-65 victory before 3,849 fans at the Petersen Events Center.
Reggie Moore had 18 points for the Cougars, but it wasn’t enough to offset Pitt’s efficient and well-balanced offensive attack.
Five Pitt players scored in double figures, including backup center Talib Zanna, who was the difference in the second half. He scored all 12 of his points after halftime, including six in Pitt’s decisive run after the Cougars had tied the game at 44.
Point guard Tray Woodall and small forward Lamar Patterson were instrumental in Pitt pulling away as well. Patterson, who was named the tournament’s MVP, had 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Woodall added 17 points and seven assists with no turnovers.
The Panthers committed just three turnovers, the fewest in the nine seasons Jamie Dixon has coached the team.
“Zanna was key and Woodall did a nice job of getting him open,” Washington State coach Ken Bone said. “They did a nice job with their spacing. Woodall was able to find him. (Zanna) was good tonight and the other night. He was very effective and efficient the past couple of games.”
Bone was left to wonder what might have been had his center, Brock Motum, been healthy for the tournament. Motum, who averaged a Pac-12-best 18.0 points per game, missed all three games of the series with an ankle injury in the CBI semifinals.
Motum’s injury came after senior guard Faisal Aden went down in late January with a season-ending knee injury. Without his top two scorers for the tournament, Bone was left to piece things together as best he could.
“When Brock went out it was just trying to tweak this and tweak that, trying to figure out ways to score,” Bone said.
Three-point shooting was the answer in Washington State’s Game 1 victory in Pullman. The Cougars were 9 of 15 from behind the arc in that game in a 67-66 victory.
But in the final two games of the series, the Cougars were just 8 of 26 from 3-point range.
“After the first game, you could see they made adjustments,” said Cougars guard DaVonte Lacy, who had three of the team’s four 3-pointers and finished with 10 points. “Those adjustments worked. We still hit a couple of 3s, but not as many as we would like.”
Despite losing the final two games of the series, Bone said playing in the CBI was a good experience for his players.
“I think it was really good for our kids who were coming back,” Bone said. “For our three seniors, it gave them a chance to keep playing ball games and enjoy their senior season. It worked out well for all the guys in our program, except losing this game.”
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