No. 9 Wichita State thrashed computer-favorite Pittsburgh on Thursday in the West Regional 73-55.
Wichita State’s Malcolm Armstead had 22 points, Cleanthony Early had 21 and Carl Hull, who thought he would not be able to play basketball again after a heart condition, added 11. Hull’s presence inside made a big difference in frustrating Pitt’s offense.
When Armstread made a driving layup with 6:40 left in the second half to give the Shockers, a team from the Missouri Valley Conference that plays in the Charles G. Koch Arena, a 50-39 lead, the momentum seemed to swing permanently to Wichita State.
The game was ugly and lacked flow, with both Wichita State and Pittsburgh going for minutes at a time without making field goals.
Pittsburgh, with its muscle, could have given Gonzaga trouble on Saturday, but the path for the Bulldogs to the Final Four is a bit smoother now. This was Pittsburgh’s last game as a member of the Big East Conference, and it may have been Jamie Dixon’s last game as Pittsburgh’s coach, as there are rumors that USC may want the services of the California native next year.
Wichita State will most likely face Gonzaga–if Gonzaga beats No. 16 Southern–on Saturday. The Shockers may give Gonzaga trouble, but Gonzaga has big men in Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris that can spread Wichita State’s defense in a way Pitt never could.
For Gonzaga, Wichita State will be an easier opponent than Pittsburgh would have been.