As CBI finale approaches, Pitt looks to future

| Monday, March 26, 2012

Pitt is getting ready for college basketball's version of "We got next."

The College Basketball Invitational championship — and its rare best-of-three finals — is hardly the do-or-die postseason format the Panthers are used to playing.

"It's more like a pick-up game than a college basketball game," junior point guard Tray Woodall said.

Pitt is two wins away from turning a disappointing season without an NCAA Tournament bid into a trophy and some momentum heading into the offseason. The Panthers (20-16) visit Washington State (18-16) at 10 p.m. Monday in the opener of the CBI championship series. Game 2 is Wednesday at Petersen Events Center. If necessary, Game 3 will be Friday at the Pete.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said he will approach the series like he does quick turnarounds in Big East play. The Panthers left on a commercial flight for the West Coast on Saturday and worked out at Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., before making the 80-mile trip to Pullman.

"It's obviously something different than we've never been involved in," Dixon said Friday. "But we are looking forward to it."

Washington State, which finished 7-11 in the Pac-12, likely will be without its best player. Brock Motum, an all-conference forward and the league's Most Improved Player, is questionable with a sprained ankle. Third-year coach Ken Bone said there was "a very slim chance" the 6-foot-10, 245-pound junior from Australia will play today.

Motum, who is averaging a team-best 18.0 points and 6.4 rebounds, hasn't practiced since being injured in the opening minutes of the Cougars' 72-55 victory at Oregon State in the CBI semifinals.

Pitt sophomore forward J.J. Moore, who scored 14 points Wednesday in Pitt's 68-62 overtime victory at Butler in the CBI semifinals, returned to New York this weekend for a family emergency but joined his teammates in Spokane on Sunday and is expected to play Monday night.

Pitt avenged last year's NCAA Tournament third-round loss with the come-from-behind victory at Butler. The Panthers got a late Lamar Patterson 3-pointer to help force overtime in sweltering Hinkle Fieldhouse. Before the rally, Pitt was 0-16 this season when trailing with less than five minutes to play.

"I think we responded in a tough atmosphere," Dixon said. "We came back. That was something we didn't do as well as we wanted this year."

Pitt is running more set plays for its returning players. That includes Patterson, who had 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists against Butler.

"It's definitely a good look for next year," Woodall said. "We are getting ready."

Panthers gameday

Pitt at Washington State

CBI championship series, Game 1

When/where: 10 p.m. Monday/Beasley Coliseum, Pullman, Wash.

TV/radio: HD Net/KDKA-FM (93.7), Pitt Radio Network

Records: Pitt 20-16, Washington State 18-16

Line: Washington State by 1.5

Series: Pitt leads, 1-0

Players to watch

Pitt: Lamar Patterson, So., F — He's averaging 15.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in three CBI games.

Washington State: Abe Lodwick, Sr., F/G — The 6-foot-7 wing had 23 points and 13 rebounds in a CBI semifinal win at Oregon State.

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