Two hours of a must-win college basketball game that’s too close for comfort is about the most harrowing sports journey imaginable. I did not need this today, but hey, at least the good guys prevailed and the NCAA tournament dream is alive.
Pace and Efficiency
Pittsburgh certainly didn’t look like the worst-shooting team in the league today, and of course this is the sort of outlier performance that can happen in any given game. Unfortunate that it had to be today, but ultimately NC State was up to the challenge.
Among the biggest stretches of the game was an 8-0 NC State run after Pitt claimed a 63-62 lead with 6:41 left. Manny Bates, who had the best game of his career, scored four points during that stretch, while Pitt went nearly four minutes without scoring a point. That gave State the margin it needed to finally stave off the Panthers.
Bates set career highs in points (13) and rebounds (10) and also blocked five shots. He only committed one foul, which allowed him to play 27 minutes. Six of his 10 rebounds came at the offensive end.
Defensive rebounding and ball security were entirely optional on both sides today, and the rebounding part at least I could see coming. Neither team is good there (Pitt is really bad there), so second-chance opportunities figured to be plentiful. Maybe not this plentiful, but still.
Pitt and NC State both had 27 free throw attempts, but the Panthers made just 15, while State hit 20. With just about every factor even between these teams, that was a big advantage for the Pack.
Bates and Hellems were real bacon-savers today, combining to shoot 11-12 from the field. Twenty-nine points on 12 shots is pretty damn good. Had to have it, too.
Now let’s go see about this re-match with Duke.