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Panthers and Cougars clash in Game One of CBI Championship Series

Pullman, WA (Sports Network) - The College Basketball Invitational's unique best-of-three championship series kicks off tonight with a pair of Power Six conference schools seeking redemption after less-than-stellar regular seasons, as the Washington State Cougars play host to the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Though the regular season may have been Pittsburgh's worst since the turn of the century, it has been able to salvage the campaign with an impressive postseason run. The Panthers defeated both Wofford and Princeton on their home floor by margins of at least 18 points in their first two CBI games, then they went on the road to take down Butler in overtime in the semifinals last Wednesday, 68-62. With its latest win, Pitt has now collected 20 wins or more in each of the past 11 seasons.

Much like Pitt, Washington State had a lackluster regular season, finishing below .500 both overall as well as in the Pac-12 Conference. The Cougars have been able to prove that their invite to the CBI was more than warranted however, as they have knocked off San Francisco, Wyoming and fellow league member Oregon State by at least 14 points, and the three-game win streak is second to only a six-game run the team had back in December. WSU is 11-3 in home games this season, including a perfect 6-0 against non-conference opponents.

These two programs have met just once before, with Pittsburgh winning in a 57-43 final on Nov. 29, 2009 as part of the Legends Classic in Newark, New Jersey.

Pittsburgh's semifinal matchup was tight from start to finish, and the team needed a Lamar Patterson jumper with 36 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 52-52. Pitt committed a costly foul in the waning seconds, but Butler missed out on its opportunity to claim victory when Ronald Nored missed a pair of free throws with 4.2 seconds left. The Panthers took control in the extra frame, paced by 14 combined points from Patterson and Tray Woodall. Although they shot just 38.1 percent from the field for the game, four players scored in double digits, including Patterson with a solid all-around effort consisting of 13 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a block. On the season, Pitt has been an above-average scoring team in the ultra-competitive Big East, ranking sixth in scoring offense (69.4 ppg) and third in field goal percentage (.453). It was also the league's most efficient team on the glass, posting an outstanding rebounding margin of +6.9. The top scorer for the Panthers is Ashton Gibbs, who puts up 14.8 ppg, but he struggles from the field at only 38.3 percent. Woodall nets 11.5 ppg and is a great distributor of the ball (6.1 apg). Nasir Robinson (10.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Patterson (9.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg) round out the Pittsburgh attack.

Washington State took control of its semifinal-round matchup against Oregon State early, getting out to a 10-point halftime advantage and never looking back. The Cougars had a solid day offensively, shooting 48.2 percent from the field, including 8-of-15 from three-point range, but the most impressive part of the win was their effort at the defensive end, as they held the Pac-12's most potent scoring attack (79.6 ppg) to a mere 55 points on 19-of-50 field goal efficiency. Abe Lodwick had a monster game for the Cougars in the win, tallying a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds, while draining 5-of-8 tries from three-point land. Reggie Moore was also impressive, pouring in 22 points. WSU has been slightly below the Pac-12 standard in both scoring offense (68.6 ppg) and scoring defense (65.8 ppg) this season, ranking seventh in both. The team's greatest strength is at the free-throw line, where it converts 71 percent of the time, good for second in the conference. Brock Motum is the Cougars' centerpiece, as he leads the league in scoring at 18.0 ppg and he adds a team-best 6.4 rpg to the mix. Reggie Moore is WSU's answer to Woodall, as he dishes out 5.3 apg, although he isn't nearly as effective at the offensive end (9.6 ppg, .354 FG percentage).

03/26 10:34:50 ET

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