FORT MYERS, Fla. – Sophomore Xavier Johnson’s layup with 11 seconds gave Pittsburgh the lead for good, as the Panthers rallied past Kansas State, 63-59, to earn a spot in the championship game of the Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans Fort Myers Tipoff on Monday night at the Suncoast Credit Union Arena.
With the loss, K-State (4-1) will play Bradley (4-2) in the tournament’s third-place game at 5 p.m., CT on Wednesday. The Braves lost to Northwestern, 78-51, in the second semifinal game.
Down 57-51 with 4:06 to play, K-State used a 7-0 run over an 81-second stretch to take a 58-57 lead over Pittsburgh with 2:45 to play. With the opportunity to extend the lead, the Wildcats missed four consecutive field goals and the front end of two 1-and-1 free throw opportunities before Johnson’s go-ahead lay-up.
Johnson extended the lead with a pair of free throws after an offensive foul on junior Cartier Diarra with 5 seconds left before freshman Justin Champagnie finished it off with two more from the line.
On a night when K-State knocked down 10 3-point field goals on 50 percent shooting, it was poor shooting from inside the arc (13-of-38) and from the free throw line (3-of-13) that proved to be the difference in the game. Despite holding Pitt to just 1-of-16 shooting from 3-point range, the Panthers connected on 67.7 percent (21-of-31) of their field goals inside the arc and hit on 85.7 percent (18-of-21) from the free throw line.