Woodall leads Pitt past No. 17 Cincinnati
CINCINNATI — This wasn't just a milestone game for Tray Woodall. It was one in which the Pitt redshirt senior point guard made a statement.
These are his Panthers.
Woodall became the seventh player in Pitt history to score 1,000 points and dish 500 assists, thanks to his willingness to take and make big shots when the Panthers needed someone to step forward.
Woodall scored eight of his team-high 14 points in the final seven minutes to propel No. 23 Pitt to a 62-52 comeback victory over No. 17 Cincinnati on Saturday night in a Big East game before 12,478 at Fifth Third Arena.
Woodall reached the milestone when he made two free throws with 4:03 remaining to give the Panthers a 51-48 lead. It was fitting, considering he missed the front end of a one-and-one with Pitt trailing by three in the final minute of a 70-61 loss to Cincinnati in the league opener Dec. 31.
“I wanted to step up and knock those two free throws down,” said Woodall, who now has 1,003 points and 547 assists. “I'm not going to lie. I definitely had the 1,000 points in the back of my mind. I'm glad it's out of the way now. There's no more pressure. I'm just happy we came out with the victory.”
It was the seventh victory in eight games for the Panthers (20-5, 8-4), who joined Marquette (17-5, 8-2) as the first teams in Big East to reach eight conference victories. Pitt plays at Marquette at 1 p.m. Saturday.
It also marked a coming of age game for Steven Adams, the 7-foot freshman center from New Zealand who was scoreless in the first meeting with Cincinnati. Adams made 5 of 6 field goals and 3 of 4 free throws to finish with 13 points, two rebounds and four blocked shots.
“They kind of isolated us in the post, and that's something we took advantage of at times,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said of the Panthers scoring 30 points in the paint, as power forward Talib Zanna added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Cincinnati (18-6, 6-5) led by as many as six points twice, but shot 20 percent from the field (5 of 25) in the second half. Pitt rallied to tie the score at 45 with 6:52 remaining on Woodall's third 3-pointer and took the lead on Trey Zeigler's basket 32 seconds later. Cincinnati came back to take a 48-47 lead before Zanna, from the right corner, fed a cutting Lamar Patterson for a dunk.
“That was a big blow,” Woodall said. “I don't think those guys were ready for that. Lamar stepped up and made a big play. It changed the direction of the game.”
The Bearcats fouled Woodall with 4:03 left, and he became the 41st player in school history to crack the 1,000-point mark by making both free throws. It was fitting, considering he missed a critical front end of a one-and-one in the final minute against Cincinnati on New Year's Eve.
On Pitt's next possession, Woodall drained a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 54-48 lead. All four of his field goals came from beyond the arc.
Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick scored 15 of his 16 points in the first half by making 5 of 8 shots from the field, including two 3-pointers, and 3 of 4 free throws. Cashmere Wright, who had 18 in the first meeting, finished with five points on 2 of 12 shooting, including 1 of 11 from 3.
The Panthers used an 11-0 run to turn a 21-13 deficit into a 24-21 lead on Woodall's 3-pointer with 3:03 remaining in the first half. But Cincinnati finished the half with a Jaquon Parker basket, a three-point play and then a 3-pointer by Kilpatrick before Adams sank a turnaround jump hook to make it 31-26 at halftime.
“I think we're a pretty dangerous team,” Patterson said, “but we can't get ahead of ourselves.”