The Pittsburgh Panthers had won 63 of their past 68 games against non-conference opponents. The Maryland Terrapins were 7-1 all time in the 2K Sports Classic benefitting Coaches v. Cancer. Something had to give Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Though Maryland came close, the former streak stood as the No. 5 Panthers escaped with a 79-70 victory over the Terps.
Maryland was led by Cliff Tucker's 17 points and Jordan Williams' 14 points and nine rebounds. Adrian Bowie scored nine points and Terrell Stoglin added nine points off of the bench.
In a back-and-forth first half, Maryland kept pace with the larger and more experienced Panthers and headed into the locker room down 31-27. The proverbial wheels came off for the Terps during the opening minutes of the second half as Pittsburgh went on a 11-4 run. The Terps would not give in and countered with a 17-4 run of their own, punctuated by a Dino Gregory slam dunk, to tie the score at 46. The momentum would not last, however, as Pitt went on a 9-3 run to take control of the game.
Pittsburgh regained its shooting touch in the second half, shooting 48% for the game after shooting only 32% in the first half. Four of the Panthers' starters scored in double figures, but none were more important than Talib Zanna's double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds. The Panthers outmuscled the Terps' thin frontcourt, outrebounding them 43-23, including 11 offensive rebounds. Williams did the best he could to hold off the Panthers' big men, but found himself in foul trouble early in the second half. The rebounding disadvantage for Maryland might have cost them the game when Zanna tipped in a miss to give the Panthers a 72-66 lead. But perhaps the most telling statistic for the Terps was their abysmal free throwing shooting. Maryland shot 14-30 from the line. Williams went 2-7.
Maryland will return home Tuesday at Comcast Center to take on the Delaware State Hornets. Pittsburgh will move onto the championship game to face either No. 13 Illinois or Texas.