No. 6 Iowa State had one of the worst shooting performances in modern NCAA tournament history in a 59-41 first-round loss to No. 11 Pittsburgh in the Midwest region.
The Cyclones shot an abysmal 23% from the field as they had issues making baskets as soon as the game started. Pitt led the game 22-2 with 10:25 to go in the first half before Iowa State made its first field goal with 9:54 to go before halftime. The Cyclones missed their first 11 shots before Jaren Holmes finally got a shot to fall.
Iowa State clawed back into the game over the course of 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 a 20-point lead with less than three minutes to go.
Thanks to a few baskets in the final moments after Pitt had put the game away, the Cyclones barely 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 it shot 18.8% from the field in its 2011 national title game loss to UConn. Mississippi Valley State also shot less than 20% from the field when it lost to UCLA in the first round of the 2008 tournament.
Those late 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. A big difference was at the free-throw line. Pitt made 25 of its 29 free throw attempts while Iowa State was just 11-of-19.
Iowa State asked for basket to be checked before the game
Iowa State’s porous shooting came immediately after the team asked officials at the Greensboro Coliseum to check if the rim was level on the basket the team was warming up at. The NCAA said in a statement during the second half that the basket was level and also said that Iowa State was offered additional warmup time and declined the offer.
There’s no way to say that additional warmup time would have been the cure for Iowa State’s shooting woes, but it certainly couldn’t have hurt given how badly they shot the ball.
Pitt, meanwhile, is a win away from becoming the fifth team to make the Sweet 16 after playing in one of the play-in games. The Panthers beat Mississippi State on Tuesday to advance to play Iowa State on Friday. And Pitt’s win also means that 2019 remains the only season since the men’s tournament field expanded to 68 teams that a play-in team hasn’t won a first-round game.