Pitt had a host of different stars step up on Friday, as the Panthers claimed the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, in a 68-66 win over Texas. Ashton Gibbs led Pitt with 24 points, including 19 in the second half, behind three three-pointers. While it was Gibbs in the second half, Travon Woodall came off the bench to serve up seven points and two steals in the first half. Brad Wanamaker was quiet on the offensive side, but led Pitt with seven rebounds.
Pitt built a 31-28 lead at halftime. The biggest key for Pitt in the first half was 13 Panther points off of 10 Texas turnovers. The Longhorns had just 10 turnovers through regulation and overtime in the win over Illinois on Thursday night. Texas led 13-10 with 12:53 left in the first half. Pitt picked up consecutive three-pointers from Gilbert Brown, followed by Woodall. When Pitt went up 16-13 on Woodall's three-pointer with 12:13 left in the first half, they would lead for the rest of the game.
The big star for Texas was Jordan Hamilton, who after a slow start in the first half--just like Gibbs--finished to lead Texas with a game-high 28 points and eight rebounds. Hamilton was held to nine points in the first half. Hamilton and Gibbs put on a clinic in the second half, as their teams rallied around them.
After pulling away at halftime, 31-28, Pitt got off to a 37-29 lead in the early part of the second half, thanks to three baskets on its first three possession. As opposed to its win over Maryland on Thursday, Pitt was using high ball screens early to free people up, getting assists on its baskets. Texas then went on a 10-2 run, to cut it to 39-38 on a three-pointer by J'Covan Brown. Pitt was forced to call a timeout just five minutes in to the second half.
Pitt answered with a 10-2 run of its own; all 10 points coming from Gibbs. Holding on to the one-point lead, Gibbs answered with a three-pointer. Then, Woodall came up with a big play on defense. Texas guard Dogus Balbay bobbled the ball, Woodall went for the ball and came up with the steal. Balbay tripped him up, sending Woodall to the line. Woodall missed his free throws, but Gibbs was fouled on the next possession, converting both of his foul shots. Texas turned the ball over again, as Dante Taylor stood up to defend Tristan Thompson. Gibbs hit a jumper from up top, putting Pitt up 46-38. He added a three-pointer on the next possession as Pitt went back up by nine, 49-40.
Texas cut it to 49-47 by the halfway point of the second half. Once again though, as Texas got close, Pitt made a couple big plays to create more separation. After a missed three-pointer by Woodall, Taylor grabbed the rebound underneath, and pushed the ball out of Gilbert Brown on the wing. Brown drained a three-pointer. On Texas' next possession, Brown came up with the steal, then pushed the ball up to Wanamaker in transition, who finished off with a dunk. Pitt went back up 54-47. Rick Barnes called a timeout for Texas, with 9:22 left in the game. After shooting just 3-of-10 from three-point range against Maryland on Thursday night, the Panthers were 7-of-14 against Texas.
Pitt continued to control the boards over the next three minutes, even though they only had one field goal to show for it. Texas cut it to 57-54 on a Gary Johnson jumper with 5:45 left. Taylor answered for Pitt, with a dunk off an offensive rebound. Pitt lead 61-57 with three minutes left. Over the final stretch, Texas kept it within four points.
The dagger came on a Gibbs three-pointer with 1:24 left in the game as Pitt held on to a 66-62 lead. On the next Texas possession, Hamilton missed a three-pointer. McGhee got tangled up with Thompson, going up for the rebound, who tipped the ball out of bounds. Pitt got the ball back with a minute left.
Pitt worked the ball down under with 10 seconds left on the shot clock, but Wanamaker dribbled the ball away to Texas. Thompson came up with the ball and fed it to a wide-open Hamilton for the transition basket. Pitt's lead was cut to 66-64.
Gibbs was able to bring the ball up, fighting through a Texas press, and was fouled with 23 seconds left. Though Pitt was just 13-of-24 from the free throw line for the night, Gibbs was 5-of-6 for the game. He made both foul shots, putting Pitt back up by four at 68-64.
With the game winding down, Hamilton came up with an offensive rebound after two missed shots by Texas, and two other offensive rebounds. The third time was the try, as Hamilton tipped in his previous miss, cutting Pitt's lead to 68-66 with 12.1 seconds left.
Woodall was fouled on the in-bounds play, and missed his only free throw chance. With no timeouts, Texas brought the ball up. Cory Joseph had the ball on the wing, then put up a duck of a jumper that bounced off the rim and into the hands of Nasir Robinson. Robinson chucked the ball up to Wanamaker, who held on to the ball as time expired.