Pitt (4-1) outplayed fourth-ranked Michigan (4-0) in the first half of the NIT semifinals Wednesday night. However, there are two halves in a basketball game and Michigan was able to pull ahead in the second half for a 67-62 win at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
"[The game] got away from us in the second half," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. "We went through some dry spells and that's what did us in in the second half."
Pitt led by as much as eight points in the first half as its well-balanced attack on offense and strong defense seemed to set the tone early-on.
Pitt's lead was 33-29 at the half. However, the Wolverines' 1-3-1 zone rattled Pitt in the second half and forced the Panthers to take some ill-advised shots.
"The second half, we didn’t get the ball where we needed to, we looked a little rusty at times against the 1-3-1. We should have done a better job attacking it," Dixon said. "We missed a layup and they got the bucket the other way. We took some questionable shots in the second half and that allowed them to get a run."
The Panthers shot 52 percent in the first half as they worked their sets and found high percentage shots. In the second half, they were 13 for 34 from the field.
The Panthers are usually strong on the boards but they got out-rebounded 37-26 which was a key in such a close game. Michigan shot 22 free throws, making 18. Pitt shot 11 free throws and made 6.
"At the end of the day we got rebounded by 11. You don' win many games by getting out-rebounded by 11," Dixon said. "That’s a big number. I don't understand that. I'm surprised we got rebounded by that much. That was disappointing. Transition defense and rebounding are our biggest emphasis."
After falling behind in the second half, Tray Woodall hit a three-pointer with 30 seconds left to close within one possession and give the Panthers a fighting chance, but Michigan went 8 for 8 from the line in the closing minute to ice the game.
"For the most part, we battled back and kept it close," Dixon said. "We were in a position to win the game. We just didn't get it done."
Lamar Patterson was the only Panther that scored in double figures with 14 points. Cam Wright and James Robinson added 8 points each and Talib Zanna added 7. Freshman center Steven Adams scored 0 points and pulled down 1 rebound.
Four Wolverines scored in double figures led by point guard Trey burke with 17 points. Tim Hardaway scored 16, Nik Stauskas scored 15, and Glenn Robinson added 13.
"Pitt guarded us very well," Michigan head coach John Beilein said. "Our young guys haven’t seen this banging play like there is in the Big Ten and the Big East."
The NIT finishes on Friday at Madison Square Garden. Michigan will face Kansas State in the final on Friday. Pitt will play Delaware in the consolation game at 2 p.m.
"We don’t know a lot about [Delaware]," Dixon said. "We need to come back and respond."