I thought Pitt was going to have a harder time in this game than they ultimately did, winning by 23. But that's what happens when Pitt actually plays up to its ability. I thought Pitt would end up with around a 12 point win and was surprised to see Oakland virtually fold up after Pitt made a run late in the first half after they got off to a very sluggish start.
Keith Benson was a one-man wrecking crew for Oakland. 28 points on 9 of 19 shooting, 9 boards, 3 steals, and a block. Not sure if he'll be a first-round NBA Draft pick, but at 6'11", he's got the size and it might just be a matter of putting on some more weight. I was really impressed with his game.
Oakland also received nothing from its second leading scorer (12.4 ppg), Derick Nelson after potentially a key play in the game:
There was some drama in the physical game though.Oakland was up 14-10 at the point of Nelson's injury and Pitt really took over after that. While I don't think it would have changed the end result, losing a senior leader like that may have played into Oakland fading so quickly like they did. Nelson did come back in the second half, but you've got to wonder if the injury played into it at all.
Oakland forward Derick Nelson took an accidental elbow to the head going for a rebound and was on the court for several minutes before leaving to receive six stitches with blood still on the court. He returned in the second half but finished with only one point on 0-for-7 shooting in 25 minutes of play.
His absence took away any momentum Oakland had gained.
At least one Oakland player said his loss hurt a bit:
"It changed a lot," guard Larry Wright said. "He's our rock on this team. He can rebound, defend, score. He does everything for us. We didn't pick up the slack when he got hurt. That really hurt us. We didn't back him up."In the end, Pitt just played too well and with six players in double figures, it's easy to see that pretty much everyone came out to play. They shot 53% from the field, had a +7 rebounding edge, and did just about everything right other than giving up a lot of fouls.
Though part of it was due to foul trouble, Oakland did what it set out to do, and that was to stop Ashton Gibbs who struggled. Unfortunately, they forgot about the rest of Pitt's team. This was the first time he's been held to single-digits in scoring for two straight games, so I've got to think he'll play better on Sunday against Xavier.
And speaking of Sunday's game, I can only assume that after 17 points today, Gil will be good for a solid four points and one rebound in that one. Sorry, had to say it.
Lastly, this little nugget upset me a bit:
Oakland's fans didn't head to the door, though; even as some Pitt fans thinned out their section, the Oakland faithful remained in their seats, getting their full 40 minutes' worth of NCAA tournament enjoyment. A few rogue fans even kept making noise -- weird whoops and hollers and yodels -- when Pittsburgh shot free throws. You have to admire the dedication.Hard to believe you'd travel all the way to Wisconsin and then leave early during a win, no matter the score.