UD Arena—–March madness is in full effect with the Mississippi St. Bulldogs from the SEC battling the Pittsburgh Panthers from the ACC in win or go home match up. Miss St. led by leading scorer red-shirt senior 6’11” forward Tolu Smith averaging 15.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, & shooting 57.6 % from the field.
The Panthers are led by upper classmen, showcased by leading scorer 6’4” combo guard Jamarius Burton averaging 15.6 points and 83.5 FT%. A matchup of Power 5 opponents at center stage at UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio.
Burton hit a go-ahead jumper with 10 seconds left on the clock to do it and Pitt beat Mississippi State 60-59 in a back-and-forth First Four game Tuesday night that featured 21 lead changes – most in the NCAA Tournament in five years.
The Pittsburgh Panthers is coached by former Duke Blue Devil standout player Jeff Capel has the Panthers playing at a high level defensively. Miss St. star Tulo Smith got it going starting the game 4-5 from 3-point land that put the Bulldogs up 14-10 with 14:26 in the 1st half. Miss St. junior Shakeel Moore scored 8 points leading all scores and was 2-3 from behind the arc to help tie the game up at 21-21 with 7:56 remaining in the 1st half. Pitt went to a zone defense to keep Burton from picking up his third foul of the half.
The Bulldogs were out muscling the Panthers on the glass 24 to 11 (10 on the offensive) Smith with 6 rebounds and unsung hero DJ Jefferies had a game high 7 boards in a 27-27 game with 3:32 minutes left in the 1st half.
Pitts Nelly Cummings displayed some senior leadership hitting timely baskets to push the Panthers lead up to 35-34 with 29.5 seconds remaining in the 1st half. Pitt shot 8-14 57.1% from behind the arc offset by Miss St. huge advantage on the boards, out rebounding Pitt 27-13. Pitt went into the break up by one 35-34 35.
The Panthers start the second half with a massive blow, leading scorer Jamarius Burton picked up his third foul of the game. It was becoming a classic match up of point guards Nelly Cummings of Pitt and Deshawn Davis of Miss St. squaring off going blow for blow scoring back and forth in a march madness type slug fest.
In this grudge match of SEC & ACC powers at the 9:47 break Miss St. was up 48-47. The Bulldogs Davis with a game high 15 points got inside the paint at will, putting pressure on Pitt’s big men to rotate over or give up an uncontested layup. Both teams had increased their sense of urgency, fighting for every loose ball, taking charges, and valuing each possession.
Pitts silky smooth senior guard Greg Elliott III hit a remarkable pull up jumper, followed by the team second leading scorer Blake Hinson who knocked down a desperation three pointer with the shoot clock running out to put Pitt up 58-52. The Bulldogs Dashawn Davis found DJ Jefferies in the deep right corner for wide open 3-pointer to cut the lead to 58-57. Miss St. looked for a defensive stop, but couldn’t get the elusive critical stop which allowed Burton to hit a fall away jump shot to put Pitt back on top 60-59 with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Miss St. with 2.1 second left to go they had an open look from the right corner but couldn’t hit the shot to win the game and Pitt Panthers will move on from the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament to play on Thursday.