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Panthers End Eagles’ Win Streak
The Panthers imposed their will and muscled their way to a 58-51 win Thursday.
The nation’s No. 19 team didn’t make it easy for the Golden Eagles, who saw their five-game conference win streak end on the Bradley Center floor.
Marquette made 4-of-9 three-point shots in the first half (44.4 percent). They shot a dismal 10 percent (1-of-10) from downtown. Not much they could do about it when the shots didn’t drop.
Senior Lazar Hayward, who made 24 percent of his shots (4-of-17) and finished with 11 points, shared some of the responsibility.
“Some days it won’t happen,” he said. “I have to contribute elsewhere. If I’m not scoring, I have to contribute somewhere.”
Too bad Hayward’s teammates didn’t keep the oversized Panthers out of the paint. Once Pitt center Gary McGhee and forward Dante Taylor got inside position, there wasn’t anything the Golden Eagles could do about it.
Both of them scored 16 of the Panthers’ 34 inside points. And that included three straight dunks by Taylor and one by McGhee inside the lane in the second half.
“We’re always undermanned,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “Everybody knows that. They just absolutely annihilated us inside.”
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon was relieved that the Golden Eagles, tops in the nation in three-point percentage before the game, had an off night. “I think we did a good job,” he said. “But then they missed some open ones at the end as they were scrambling.”
“For the most part, we did a pretty good job of not giving them many open looks.”
After Pitt (20-6, 9-4 Big East) scored the game’s first four points, Marquette (16-9, 7-6) outscored the Panthers 11-1 to lead 12-5 at the 12 minute 53 second mark in the first half. Pitt regained the lead for good at 20-18.
Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom’s three with 44 seconds left ended a 23-7 Pitt run as they led at the break 31-25.
The Panthers turned missed shots by Marquette and good defense inside the paint into made baskets of their own as they kept the Golden Eagles at arm’s length and increased their biggest lead to 10 points (54-44) with 5:43 left in regulation.
“(Pitt) did a great job of having patience and poise on offense,” Williams said. “We did a really poor job of playing team defense.” The Panthers shot 60 percent (12-20) in the second half and 54.8 percent in the game (23-42).
Williams was asked if beating Pitt down the floor could’ve compensated for their lack of defending the post. “It’s hard to run when you’re getting it out the net,” he said, referring to Pitt missing only 19 shots in the game.
The Golden Eagles had 20 more shot attempts than the Panthers.
McGhee, Nasir Robinson, Brad Wannamaker and Jermaine Dixon all had 10 points for Pitt. Marquette was led by Jimmy Butler’s 14 points. Johnson-Odom finished with 13 and Hayward had 11 points.
For Marquette, it’s back to the drawing board as they figure out a way to play their way back into consideration for the NCAA Tournament.