Nelly Cummings scored 13 points and No. 11 seed Pittsburgh held sixth seed Iowa State to 23% shooting in a 59-41 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
Jamarius Burton added 11 points and Greg Elliott had 10 for coach Jeff Capel’s Panthers, who took a 22-2 lead after Iowa State missed its first 11 shots. Things didn’t get much better for the Ciclones, who had three stretches in which they missed at least eight consecutive shots.
Pitt (24-11), which outscored Mississippi State in the first four, moves into Sunday’s Midwest second-round game against third seed Xavier, who had to rally from a 13-point deficit to beat the top seed. No. 14 Kennesaw State.
Gabe Kalscheur and Jaren Holmes each scored 12 points for Iowa State (19-14), which reached the Sweet 16 last year in coach TJ Otzelberger’s first season.
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The Cyclones, who had lost nine of their previous 13 games, didn’t score a basket until Holmes hit a short jumper with 9:53 left in the first half, drawing a sarcastic cheer from the Iowa State fans.
Iowa State’s poor start came while shooting at the same basket that officials worked to fix before the game, leading to a brief delay.
“Iowa State asked us during pregame warmups to check to see if the rim was level,” the NCAA said in a statement. «The building staff reviewed it and made a minor adjustment before the game started. We offered them extra warm-up time, but they refused.»
Holmes’ bucket seemed to ignite the spark for the Cyclones, who climbed back to 30-23 at halftime. Iowa State took advantage of three Pitt starters who were benched with foul trouble and nine turnovers.
But the Cyclones came out of the locker room in exactly the same way they began the first half, hitting two of their first 19 shots.
When Pitt’s Nike Sibande was fouled on a 3-pointer from the left corner with less than five minutes to go and converted the next free throw to put the Panthers up by 20, it was almost over.
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The Cyclones went nearly eight minutes without a field goal in the second half before Tamin Lipsey made a corner 3-pointer with 2:13 remaining to cut the lead to 56-37.
Pitt got an emotional boost from center Federiko Federiko, who received a standing ovation from the Panthers faithful when he checked into the game in the first half. Frederiko sat out with a knee injury against Mississippi State, and the Panthers were outrebounded by 21.
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Pitt: The Panthers knocked down eight 3-pointers against one of the best defenses in the country as they beat Mississippi State for their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2014. They stayed hot against Iowa State, hitting their first three shots from beyond the arc .
Iowa State: The Cyclones weren’t quite ready for the big stage, enduring one of the worst shooting performances in recent memory.