PITTSBURGH (AP) – George Washington was one of the Atlantic 10’s worst teams in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio this season, recording a plus-0.9 mark. A matchup with Pittsburgh, who posted the nation’s third-best ratio of plus-1.7, did not bode well for the Colonials.
But GW forced 16 Pitt turnovers and committed only four while Kethan Savage scored 17 points and Patricio Garino had 14 to lead George Washington to a 60-54 win over Pittsburgh in the first round of the NIT Tuesday.
“(Ratio) has been our Achilles heel all season,” GW head coach Mike Lonergan said. “Tonight we didn’t turn the ball over and we made Pitt turn the ball over. That was a key stat for us.”
Cameron Wright had 11 points for Pittsburgh (19-15) and Jamel Artis added 10. The Panthers ended their season on a five-game losing streak and Tuesday’s 16 turnovers were the second-most Pitt committed this season.
“It was bad,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “There’s no other way to say it, it was just bad decisions, bad plays and uncharacteristic at the same time.”
The Colonials (22-12) took an early 10-6 lead after Savage hit a pair of 3-pointers.
Savage said he wanted to take advantage of Pitt’s unfamiliarity with his style of play.
“They didn’t really know my game too well and I just wanted to be aggressive and pick my spots and try to score.”
The Panthers held GW scoreless for more than five minutes following Savage’s baskets to take a four-point lead. After a 10-2 Pitt run, George Washington closed the half strong to lead 28-23 at the break.
GW extended its lead to nine points out of the half before Pitt tied the game at 36. The Colonials scored eight unanswered points to go back up 44-36.
Pitt got within 55-53 with 1:07 left, but Savage answered with a basket and Joe McDonald made two free throws for a 59-53 lead with 20 seconds left.
George Washington: The Colonials beat the Panthers for the first time since Jan. 11, 1982 when the teams were members of the Eastern 8 Conference. Tuesday’s game was the first between the two teams since Feb. 27, 1982.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers finished with less than 20 wins for the first time in 14 years and for the first time in the 12-year tenure of coach Dixon.
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME
This year’s NIT is experimenting with a 30-second shot clock, five less than college basketball’s normal time allotted per possession. While the change didn’t do much to increase scoring in this particular game, the Colonials enjoyed playing with the new rule.
“With 30 seconds, we had to be more fast-paced and we moved the ball around more,” Garino said. “I think it really helps our game.”
Pittsburgh’s season is over.
George Washington plays the winner of Temple and Bucknell.