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Pitt shuts down K-State in Maui third-place game

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LAHAINA, Hawaii — After starting the EA Sports Maui Invitational on a sensational scoring run, Kansas State’s heralded sophomore guard Marcus Foster hit a cold spell that his team could not overcome.

Foster began play as the tournament’s leading scorer — notching 47 points combined in the first two games of the event — but he managed just seven points as the Wildcats fell to a scrappy Pittsburgh squad 70-47 in the tourney’s third-place game Wednesday at the Lahaina Civic Center.

Foster hit just three of nine field-goal attempts and took only one shot in the second half.

“We obviously showed a lot of heart, a lot of character from a young group that’s gone through (multiple) changes in a short period of time here over the last couple months, and responded in a big way,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “That was a very good Kansas State team we beat, and we did it the way we wanted to do it.”

The Panthers (4-2) outscored Kansas State 40-20 in the second half. Pitt hit on 55.3 percent of its field-goal attempts overall while limiting the Wildcats to 32.6 percent shooting from the field.

Guard James Robinson led Pittsburgh with 14 points, dished out six assists and grabbed four steals en route to garnering Player of the Game honors. Forward Michael Young paced the Panthers down low with 13 points and seven rebounds.

“I think we had a three-point lead going into half, and we were pretty excited in our first half performance, but we knew we had 20 more minutes and we knew Kansas State wasn’t going to back down,” Robinson said. “We turned it up a notch. … For the most part, we were able to execute and finish strong.”

Forward Ryan Luther came off the bench and energized the Panthers with 13 points, sinking three 3-pointers. The forward made a crowd-pleasing layup toward the end of Pitt’s 21-6 run to end the game.

“We paid attention to detail and got the job done,” Young said. “We ended on a great note … beat a good team in Kansas State, and we’re taking this experience into the next one. I think as a team we’re going to take off.”

Pittsburgh used an 11-3 run to begin the second half and built a 41-30 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the game. The Panthers effectively kept Kansas State from scoring behind the 3-point arc — the Wildcats converted just two of 13 from long distance — and continued to score against a disheveled opponent that committed 15 turnovers in the contest.

Kansas State (3-3) received an admirable performance from forward Thomas Gipson, who led the team with 13 points and added six rebounds while converting all seven of his free throws.

“I felt like we put everything in the first two games … but it’s not an excuse,” Gipson said. “We have to overcome that fatigue and play harder. It’s a good experience. Hopefully we can go home … and get ready for the Big 12. I felt like it was good for our experience in away games, in neutral games.”

The Wildcats sprinted out to a 10-3 run to begin the game, a stretch buoyed by an emphatic dunk and 3-point jumper from Foster.

Pittsburgh climbed back to take a 17-14 lead thanks to a 14-4 run made possible in part by four consecutive missed field goals and three turnovers by Kansas State during an eight-minute span.

The Wildcats got back in sync once Foster returned from a respite on the bench, and the sophomore sensation threw down a one-handed dunk to put his squad back up 18-17 with 6:18 to play in the first half.

The lead was short-lived, though, as Pittsburgh received 3-pointers from guard Cameron Johnson and Luther as well as a successful three-point play by Robinson as part of a 13-9 streak to end the half. The Panthers held a 30-27 lead at intermission.

“They had some guys jump up and make shots,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. “I think they felt energized when they made shots to close the half. I’d like to take this game out of (what I learned), but obviously, you can’t.”

NOTES: Kansas State fell to 3-5 all-time in Maui Invitational competition. The Wildcats

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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