The ninth-seeded Shockers handled eighth-seeded Pittsburgh 73-55 with lockdown defense, earning a shot at top-seeded Gonzaga on Saturday.
SALT LAKE CITY — Wichita State matched Pittsburgh’s power and overmatched it with quickness, an asset nobody outside the coaching staff saw coming.
The ninth-seeded Shockers handled eighth-seeded Pittsburgh 73-55 on Thursday with lockdown defense in the second round of the NCAA tournament’s West Regional.
The victory was a mild upset by seeding. One more will have the entire nation’s attention. Wichita State (27-8) plays top-seeded and top-ranked Gonzaga on Saturday.
The Shockers bullied Pitt (24-9) and led by 11 or more points for the final 6:49.
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“They were far more aggressive than us,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
The Shockers smacked the disinterested Panthers early, refused to let them regroup and finished the game with a parade of dunks and free throws. Pitt missed 16 of 17 three-point attempts and shot 35.2 percent overall.
Guard Malcolm Armstead, who played two seasons at Oregon before transferring to Wichita State, scored 11 of his 22 points in the final seven minutes. Cleanthony Early added 21. The Shockers made 11 of 21 shots in the second half, enough to survive 2-of-20 three-point shooting.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told his players to “Knock ‘em in the face first,” according to Early.
In a physical game with players receiving an occasional elbow in the mouth or head, Wichita State out-rebounded the Big East’s top rebounding team 37-32.
Shockers guard Tekele Cotton, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, made five steals and held Pitt’s top scorer, Tray Woodall, to two points.
“I’m sorry,” said Woodall, who came in averaging 11.8 points and was in tears afterward. “I let my team down.”