I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't all that thrilled with Pitt playing in the CBI. If you haven't been reading this blog, my thoughts on the third-tier tournament are well documented here and here.
I'm stubborn ... just ask my wife. So it shouldn't be hard to understand that my thoughts haven't changed. All of that said, I'd much rather see Pitt win than lose and winning they are.
If you're an unfortunate soul with Comcast, you didn't see the game against Butler. For probably about 35 minutes, that wasn't a bad thing. But the last few minutes and overtime were intriguing and it was refreshing to see Pitt come out on top of a game that so often they would have found a way to lose.
Don't get me wrong. They tried ... I mean, really tried. With only about five seconds left, Pitt made an ill-advised foul (of course they did), sending a Butler player to the line for a guaranteed win. But he somehow missed both free throws and we were off to overtime. When that happened, it was the Tray Woodall show.
I give huge props to Woodall for not packing it in, by the way. On a night when Ashton Gibbs went scoreless (first time this season and maybe even since he was a freshman) and when Nasir Robinson was 1-8, Woodall was going through his own struggles. He had only three points heading into overtime, but that's when everything changed.Woodall scored nine points in the extra period and was perfect from the field and from the free throw line.
Robinson didn't have a great game, but there were plays when he really got after it. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Gibbs. His shots weren't falling and some of them even looked like they were half-hearted attempts. Ironically, the only time the ball actually went through the hoop for him was when he made a three-pointer that came right after a foul and didn't count.
I would try to figure out Gibbs, but what would be the point? It's the end of the season and it doesn't matter all that much. The only thing I'll say is, repeating my statement earlier this season, I think trying to carry a team really was too much for him. Gibbs seems to have a hard time getting involved in the action when he's not scoring. He's not the first to do that and he won't be the last, but it's frustrating to see someone with his ability to shoot the ball last year with good players around him fail so miserably at times this year.
Gibbs, as we've seen, can excel on a team with other talented players. That's not to say that this year's team doesn't have skilled players, but I'm hard pressed to come up with four guys on this year's team as good as Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, Nasir Robinson, and Gary McGhee. Those players really kept teams honest to some degree and opened up doors for Gibbs. That's missing this season and Gibbs has found things much more difficult. That's not to say he's necessarily a bad player, but he's not one that will put a team on his back and will them to victory most of the time.
The bench (that scored 35 points) was really what kept Pitt in it - particularly J.J. Moore and Talib Zanna, who combined for 29. Both have played well (will have more on that later in another article) and that's encouraging because they'll be two guys Pitt's going to rely on heavily next year.
Free throws were also huge as Butler shot only 57% (to Pitt's 80%) and missed some key ones late in regulation and in the beginning of overtime.
Next up, Pitt will get either Washington State or Oregon State in the finals. Unlike the game tonight, I really like Pitt's chances against either team. If the Panthers don't win the best of three format, I'd be a bit surprised.