No. 6 Iowa State routed No. 11 Pittsburgh 59–41 in the first round in the Midwest region in what was one of the worst shooting performances in modern NCAA tournament history.
The Cyclones shot 23% from the field as they had trouble making baskets as the game began. Pitt led the game 22–2 with 10:25 remaining before Iowa State scored their first field goal with 9:54 to go before halftime. The Cyclones missed their first 11 shots before Jareen Holmes finally got a shot to fall.
Iowa State got back in the game during the first half and then the second half somehow got even worse. ISU made two of its first 25 shots to open the half as Pitt opened up a 20-point lead with less than three minutes to go.
Thanks to some baskets in the final minutes after Pitt put the game away, the Cyclones avoided becoming the third team in modern men’s NCAA tournament history to shoot less than 20% from the field. Butler is the infamous record holder as he shot 18.8% from the field for UConn in their 2011 national title game. Mississippi Valley State also shot less than 20% from the field when they lost to UCLA in the first round of the 2008 tournament.
Those latter baskets meant Iowa State finished the game with 14 made baskets from the field on 60 attempts. The Cyclones took 21 3-pointers and made just two of them.
Pitt didn’t shoot much better. The Panthers shot 34% from the field and made 14 shots on 41 attempts. There was a big difference at the free-throw line. Pitt made 25 of its 29 free throw attempts, while Iowa State was only 11 of 19.
Iowa State asked to check the basket before the game
Iowa State’s porous shooting occurred shortly after the team asked officials at the Greensboro Coliseum to check whether the rim was level on the basket on which the team was warming-up. The NCAA said in a statement The basket was flat during the second half and also stated that Iowa State was offered additional warmup time and declined the offer.
There’s no way to say that the extra warmup time would have been the cure for Iowa State’s shooting woes, but it certainly couldn’t hurt given how badly they shot the ball.
Meanwhile, Pitt is one win away from becoming the fifth team to make the Sweet 16 after playing in a play-in game. The Panthers defeated Mississippi State on Tuesday to advance to play Iowa State on Friday. And Pitt’s win also means that 2019 is the only season in which the men’s tournament field has expanded to 68 teams in which a play-in team has not won a first-round game.