Pitt couldn't rally against Long Beach State on Wednesday. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
I use quotes because if you watched this game, it was no upset. The 49ers are for real. They completely dominated the paint against Pitt, scoring 44 points to just 23 points for Pitt. The defense put Pitt in this position for the second game in a row.
Against Rider, it took a key defensive stretch in the final four minutes to allow Pitt to escape in the end. This time, against a long and veteran Long Beach State team, the defense did them in. Pitt had a better perimeter defense in the second half, but the interior defense couldn't contain the big men for the 49ers. They would get the ball inside and Pitt wouldn't be able to keep them from getting easy buckets. The backcourt of Long Beach State was outstanding. They accounted for 20 of Long Beach State's 24 assists and were able to dissect Pitt's heralded man defense with good screening and drives into the paint. They also did a great job of shutting down Ashton Gibbs, holding him to 8 of 21 shooting and four of nine from three-point range.
On offense, Pitt was sloppy, turning it over 12 times, including five from Woodall. Four Panthers scored in double figures (Robinson, Gibbs, Woodall, Patterson), but one problem was poor shot selection. Pitt would get momentum and then take a very poor shot to give the momentum right back to Long Beach State. Pretty much the story of the second half.
If I told you Pitt had four scorers in double figures, you would've assumed they won easily. But outside of those four, there was nobody. Pitt had two points from the bench, both John Johnson free throws (Speaking of free throws, Pitt actually shot well from the line, going 13-14. Looking for positives here...).
The bench (and Dante) couldn't connect on any of their shots and they're going to have to for Pitt to reach their goals of a deep March run. Dante offensively is just not where Pitt needs him to be. I keep going back to Gary McGhee's sophomore year and just how bad he was on offense. When he became the starter, he really started coming into his own on the offensive side. On top of that, I feel Gary was a stronger rebounder and defender and he was better at boxing out than Dante is currently. Taylor has to get there because Pitt needs a guy who can be a dependable scorer down low and is capable of getting offensive rebounds for second chance opportunities.
Is it time to panic? Not yet.
Was Pitt a little overrated? Probably. But go back to the 2009-2010 season, where Pitt was in a familiar situation. They buckled down after losing to a really bad Indiana team (coincidentally by ten) at the Garden and then started conference play 5-0 with some really good wins in there (Let me say again that I do not think Long Beach State is bad. They're not as we just saw). As we all know, Pitt ended up making the Tournament as a 3-seed. It looks bad now, but it's obviously way too early in the season to be panicking. And this loss may look a bit differently in a few weeks as Long Beach State plays several other ranked opponents this season - especially if they can knock another one off.
Pitt can still do everything they set out to do. This game was a wake up call. The defense will have to get better inside. Right now, Pitt doesn't really have that big reliable defender down low. But for now, Pitt has six days off to move on and prepare for La Salle.