Casual Pitt fans who didn't stay up to watch the game might look at the 16-point loss and think the game wasn't that close. But those of us who stayed up to watch saw a different picture.
Pitt played well in the first half, despite great defense by Texas, and actually had a slim halftime lead. And just when you thought they might be done, they played another strong 10 minutes, keeping pace with Texas. The thing I noticed, though, was that Texas' players were generally just quicker. Maybe not necessarily better (though that was probably the case, too), but just quicker - offensively AND defensively.
I kind of fall into the camp of Gary McGhee when I say I'm encouraged, but the difference between he and I is that he actually PLAYS for the University. Maybe I'm reading a bit too much into this comment, but it seems that he was happy with the effort. I don't think that will play too well in the Dixon camp:
"We can build a lot from that game," said junior center Gary McGhee, who recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and was named to the all-tournament team. "We learned we can fight, and we learned that we can play with anybody."
Coach Jamie Dixon had a different perspective. His team had a four-point lead with 16:04 remaining in the game. For Dixon, the game was viewed as a lost opportunity.
"We expected to win," Dixon said. "We didn't expect to come in here and be encouraged by a loss. There are some things we can gain from this, but there is no satisfaction in a loss."
Maybe it was because he played a strong game with 11 points and 7 rebounds, but he needs to learn that Pitt isn't happy with 'playing with anybody' - even in down years. This is one of the top programs in the country over the past 10 years and it's hard to take a 16-point loss well.
Meanwhile, it's clear that Dixon is bringing Dante Taylor along slowly as he only played 6 mninutes. With Texas' bigger players, I would have figured he was a cinch to get about 20 minutes, but Dixon apparently felt otherwise. His 15 scoreless minutes (with only one rebound) against Wichita State also probably didn't help his cause. I have to admit, they're bringing him along a lot slower than I anticipated - especially with the lack of height on this team (at least as far as guys getting significant minutes).
Back to the game.
Even going ten deep, Pitt seemed a little worn out in the 2nd half and the halfway point was when things started to turn sour:
With the score tied 51-all with 10:48 to play, Jones converted a three-point play to give Texas a 54-51 lead and start a 14-3 run.
Jamie Dixon was honest about the game:
"It just came down to execution and they executed better in the second half than we did," said Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. "They got better shots than we did, that's the bottom line. The percentages indicate that. They shoot 65 percent in the second half, we shoot 37 percent."
On Texas' side, they may have won the battle, but lost a war as one of their starting guards is out for the season after a freak pre-game injury. Here's hoping he can fully recover.
It was a decent effort, but to be honest, Pitt flat out wasn't good enough. They're not going to be one of the best teams in college basketball this year, but if they can get into the tournament, a couple of wins may be possible. And like I keep saying - they WILL get better with the return of Jermaine Dixon and Gil Brown. This was a great game for a young team early in the season. If they can get through the rest of the non-conference schedule (which could be tough with games still against Duquesne and Indiana), they will have a good jump on getting into the tournament.