Pitt's ferocious rally falls short

First, the Pittsburgh Panther defense lost their composure, and then Brandin Knight lost his.<br><br> Pitt, down by three with a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime, had the ball in Brandin Knight's hands with 11.5 seconds left.<br><br> The star point guard would take the defining shot, there was no doubt.

He had been so immaculate in the 2:30 minutes prior, leading the Panthers with beautiful jaw-dropping drives to the hoop, sweet dishes to Chevy Troutman, and even two clutch free throws with :15 on the clock.

Knight had an opening. He'd gotten Marquette's star guard Dwayne Wade up in the air on a great pump fake.

But instead of resetting his position, Knight forced an off-balance, off-target brick that never had a chance from the second he let go of the ball.

The game had been a classic chest-thumping affair until Marquette broke open the game behind Wade's hot hand and a stifling defense. Too often, the Panthers were forced into poor looks from the outside, while Wade sliced and diced Pitt's interior defense, forcing mismatches and poor judgements.

Too often, Wade's drives to the basket opened up the trees Scott Merrit and Robert Jackson to easy layups.

In effect, Marquette out-Pitt Pitt.

Pitt's defensive composure broke down around the time Wade was hitting his 5th straight bucket early in the second half. Jaron Brown, so strong defensively in the first half, too often lost track of the Golden Eagles star or Wade would out-muscle Julius Page.

Page for his part shut down Travis Diener, limiting him to 4 points on 2 - 8 shooting.

But, while Pitt's interior passing game never materialized until the last minutes of regulation, the Eagles at times seemed to put on a clinic. Merritt ended the game with 17 points, but his 4 clutch free throws in the final minute never gave the Panthers a chance to take the lead.

Marquette will face Kentucky on Saturday. The Wildcats defeated Wisconsin 63 - 57.

--John Biles

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