DAYTON, Ohio — Jamarius Burton’s floater in the lane with 10 seconds remaining lifted Pitt to a dramatic 60-59 win over Mississippi State in an NCAA Tournament First Four thriller on Tuesday night.
The Panthers (23-11) advance as a No. 11 seed to play sixth-seeded Iowa State on Friday in a Midwest Region first-round game in Greensboro, N.C.
Nelly Cummings led the Panthers with 15 points and Greg Elliott added 13 points. Blake Hinson had 12 points and Nike Sibande finished with 11.
Dashawn Davis led the Bulldogs (21-13) with 15 points while Shakeel Moore scored 14 in the season-ending loss. Tolu Smith had 13 points and eight rebounds, and D.J. Jeffries contributed nine points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
“It was a tough game,” Burton said. “These guys were continuing to fight when I had the ball in my hands in the last 30 seconds or so. I just told myself I was built for it and I just got to a spot and let it go and I had complete confidence in myself and that was pretty much everything that went down.”
The game was back-and-forth from start to finish.
The Panthers took a 58-52 lead with 3:08 left on a wild catch-and-shoot 30-foot 3-pointer from Hinson.
The Bulldogs scored the next seven points, though, highlighted by Smith’s layup with 32.9 seconds left to put the Bulldogs up 59-58.
After Burton’s go-ahead hoop, Pitt’s Guillermo Diaz Graham blocked Smith’s shot on a drive to the basket with 2.7 seconds remaining before Moore missed a corner 3-point attempt and Jeffries couldn’t put back a rebound tip.
“There was no doubt in our minds that we would fight and scratch and claw, and we did,” Mississippi State coach Chris Jans said. “I think it was 58-52 (Pitt leading) and when we took the lead, they took it right back. And then obviously, we had a couple of chances there at the end to win the game, but it didn’t happen.”
Twice in the first 11 minutes of the game, Mississippi State fouled a Pittsburgh shooter on a made 3-pointer. But in each case, the Panthers could not convert their four-point play opportunity.
Pitt claimed a 35-34 halftime lead thanks in large part to its potent 3-point offense. The Panthers converted 8 of 13 from beyond the arc, including two apiece from Sibande, Elliott and Cummings.
Mississippi State, which was shooting just 26.6 percent from beyond the arc on the season entering the night, made three of its first five 3-point attempts. But the Bulldogs reverted to form, and they wound up at 6-for-23 (26.1 percent).
The Panthers hit 9 of 19 (47.4 percent) from long distance overall.
–Mike Petraglia, Field Level Media