Panthers hold on in thrilling First Four

MARCH MADNESS kicked off on Wednesday, with part of a pair of nail-biting encounters seeing the Pittsburgh Panthers claim a thrilling one-point triumph over the Mississippi State Bulldogs at UD Arena.

In one of the best starts to the tournament in recent memory, the Panthers held on in a mesmerising finish, which saw both side’s take the lead in the final minute of the game. The Bulldogs had a pair of chances to steal the win in the last 10 seconds of the match, but a blocked lay-up and missed three-point attempt sealed Pittsburgh’s 60-59 win.

For the victors, Nelly Cummings top scored for the Panthers, proving to be the team’s highest volume shooter. Confident in his shot, the guard made six of his 13 field goal attempts, and one made free throw saw his total reach 15 points, which was an equal game-high total. Greg Elliott was next in line with 13 points (5/7 FT), while Blake Hinson (12 points) and Nike Sibande (11 points) also contributed.

Dashawn Davis was Mississippi State’s best player in the match, recording the same number of points as Cummings (15) on 7/13 shooting from the field. Shakeel Moore (14 points) and Tolu Smith (13 points) rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Bulldogs, and performed valiantly in defeat.

While both sides shot extremely similar from the field, the biggest discrepancy was shooting from behind the arc. The Panthers nailed nine of their 19 attempts from three-point range (47 per cent), while the Bulldogs could only conjure six made triples on 23 attempts (26 per cent). Mississippi State could not nail its shots from long range down the stretch, and it ended up being a costly factor.

In a frantic final minute, there were some clutch plays from both sides as the lead changed hands on a number of occasions. Smith gave his side a surprising one-point lead with 38 seconds to go considering they were six-down moments ago.

Down the other end, Jamarius Burton nailed a clutch jumpshot with just 14 seconds on the clock. The Bulldogs created a pair of scoring opportunities in the dying stages of the match, but both did not find the bottom of the net, as Pittsburgh held on.

As a result of this, the Panthers have advanced to the next stage of the tournament with a win in the First Four stage. On the other hand, it is dream over for the Bulldogs, who have been eliminated.

In the day’s other match, the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders held off the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks and advance.

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