PULLMAN – The Washington State Cougars were missing their two leading scorers, but they produced just enough offense to edge Pittsburgh in the opening game of the College Basketball Invitational championship finals Monday.
The Cougars escaped with a thrilling 67-66 victory when Lamar Patterson’s jump shot from the left corner bounced harmlessly off the rim as time expired.
“Lamar got a good look at it,” said Pitt guard Tray Woodall, who inbounded the ball to Patterson with .8 of a second remaining. “It just didn’t fall.”
The CBI’s unusual best-of-three championship series continues Wednesday at Pittsburgh (4 p.m., HDNet).
The Cougars are attempting to become the third Pacific-12/10 Conference team to win the 5-year-old CBI – after Oregon State in 2009 and Oregon in 2011 – and WSU would be the third team from the league to claim the title after entering with a losing record.
The Cougars (19-16) clinched their sixth consecutive winning season despite the absence of Pac-12 scoring leader Brock Motum. WSU has played without its second-leading scorer, Faisel Aden (knee), since late January.
Coach Ken Bone said there is “a slim chance” Motum will recover from a sprained ankle, suffered in WSU’s previous game Wednesday at Oregon State, in time to play the second game against Pitt.
Senior forward Abe Lodwick, playing the best of his career of late, led the Cougars in scoring (16 points) and rebounds (seven) for the second consecutive game.
“I’m just really thankful to go out with a team like this,” Lodwick said. “I couldn’t ask for better teammates.”
Woodall and J.J. Moore led Pittsburgh (20-17) with 16 points each.
Pitt held a 38-35 lead at halftime, despite permitting the Cougars to shoot 63 percent from the field. WSU wound up outshooting the Panthers 51 percent to 44 percent, including 60 percent on 3-pointers. The 60 percent on 3-pointers was a season high against Pitt.
“We have to guard better,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
The Cougars snapped a 47-47 tie by outscoring Pitt 13-1 in the second half. The Panthers went more than seven minutes without a field goal, but they cut the deficit to one when Talib Zanna made a free throw with 4.8 seconds remaining.
Zanna missed his second free throw, and Moore fouled Lodwick on the rebound. Lodwick missed the free throw, and D.J. Shelton blocked a tough shot by Woodall as he drove to the basket after taking an in-bounds pass at midcourt. That led to Patterson’s miss on the final shot.
Reggie Moore scored 14 points for WSU, and former Curtis High School star DaVonte Lacy added 10.
Lodwick scored 10 points in the first eight minutes to push the Cougars to a 17-12 lead. Pitt responded with a 13-0 run in 2:23 that gave the Panthers the lead the remainder of the half.
The CBI, in a highly unusual cost-cutting move, is flying both teams east on the same charter flight.
“We’ll get to know each other well,” Bone said with a smile.