Thursday’s box score
2647–73Pittsburgh 21 34 – 55
Needs no introduction
A year ago, Wichita State guard Ron Baker watched the NCAA Tournament from the bench as a redshirt. On Thursday, he returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 13 at Tennessee.
Baker replaced senior Demetric Williams, due both to Baker’s offensive skills and an injury. Williams sat out practices last week, often riding a bike beside the court, with a knee injury.
“He came back from St. Louis and he couldn’t move his knee,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “I wanted to make sure both of them contributed, and they did. We’re going to need both of them going forward.”
Baker started 10 games before a stress fracture in his left foot sidelined him until March. He missed all five of his shots Thursday, scoring six points from the line.
Hard to explain
On selection day, Pittsburgh players expressed surprise at their No. 8 seed, figuring their record deserved better treatment. Coach Jamie Dixon didn’t think that attitude kept his team from taking the Shockers seriously.
“They have been ranked all year,” Dixon said. “We played them a couple of years ago (2009) in Kansas City. So I think we knew (about WSU). I think they were far more aggressive than us early. I don’t know why that was, but we seemed to be on our heels.”
Pitt senior Dante Taylor knew how the Shockers played.
“They were prepared for us and how we were going to come out,” he said. “They just got it done more than us, played hard than us, each possession.”
The loss left senior Tray Woodall in tears, unable to continue talking in the interview session.
“It’s a bitter taste in my mouth to end my career with one of the worst games I’ve ever played,” he said. “I’m sorry I let my team down.”
Alone in the corner
Shocker guard Tekele Cotton is no longer the player Creighton declined to guard on Jan. 19, baiting him into an 0-for-10 shooting performance. Two months later, Marshall ran a play to get Cotton a three-pointer at a crucial time.
“You’ve got to feed the beast,” Marshall said.
After a dead ball, Cotton worked open in the corner for a three that gave WSU a 38-31 lead with 12:44 to play and halt Pitt’s momentum.
Cotton, a sophomore, scored six points and made 1 of 2 threes. He is 19 of 56 (33.9 percent) from behind the arc after starting the season 3 for 23.
On the line
WSU made a season-high 33 free throws in 41 attempts to outscore Pitt by 17 points at the line.
It sealed the game by making 24 of 29 in the second half, and 13 of 15 in the final six minutes. With that, the Shockers made more free throws in 20 minutes than it did in any other game except one. The Shockers made 26 of 27 in a November win over Western Carolina.
WSU became the fourth team to score 70-plus against Pitt this season and the Panthers suffered their worst NCAA loss since an 86-65 defeat to Utah in 1993.… The Shockers improved to 9-10 in NCAA games, winning its first since 2006. Marshall is 2-8 in the tournament, adding to his 2007 win over Notre Dame while at Winthrop.… Pitt lost its opening NCAA game for the first time since 2005, when Pacific defeated the ninth-seeded Panthers 79-71 in Boise, Idaho. They are 0-3 as a No. 9 seed.… WSU is 15-2 when holding opponents under 60 points. Pitt’s 55 points are its second-lowest this season, behind a 51-42 loss to Notre Dame.… WSU has out-rebounded all of its non-conference opponents.… WSU leads the series 2-1 after losing in 2009 (68-55) and winning 109-58 in 1964.