It wasn't easy, but Pitt did just enough to win on the road against Boston College tonight, 66-59.
The Panthers actually jumped out to a double-digit first half lead and it looked like they would win this one by 20 if they really wanted to. They held a 14-point lead early in the second half, but that didn't last long. Eventually, the Pitt team we've seen so much of lately showed up later and the result was a game that was a little closer for comfort.
I don't know where to go with this team, to be honest. With all of the blowout wins earlier in the year, I didn't think they would be playing down to its competition as much as they have sometimes. But games like tonight just really prove that theory wrong. I get the whole 'the other team is trying, too' philosophy and any road conference victory is big. But this was a bad Boston College team playing in front of a half-empty gym with a pretty lifeless crowd. Just no reason that Pitt couldn't have won a bit more handily.
The Panthers' biggest issue was just unbelievably sloppy play. Unofficially, they had 17 turnovers and that's just pretty uncharacteristic.
The good news was that Pitt actually knocked down some shots tonight. They weren't offensive wizards and, against BC, they didn't dominate. But at least it wasn't the 50-60 point disaster on offense we've seen at times. They made 50% of their shots and looked significantly better than they have the last few weeks. +14 on the boards, nearly 80% of their free throws were made ... I mean, they were just better than they have been.
Another thing I liked was that they only took ten three-pointers (and even made five of them). The fact that they were throwing up 15-20 sometimes has been a big complaint I've had over this dry run of losses/close wins. Pitt just isn't a three-point shooting team and anything more than ten is probably generally too many.
Staying positive here, I was also glad to see Pitt's trio of 'stars' step up. Talib Zanna led the way with 21, and he, Lamar Patterson, and Cam Wright had a total of 51 points. It's a good thing, too, because the rest of the team struggled offensively. Mike Young and James Robinson combined for three. Derrick Randall, Chris Jones, and Josh Newkirk had a total of three. Other than Jamel Artis' seven, not much else was contributed. Those six aforementioned guys went only 3-11 and that forced the other guys to do more - fortunately they could.
Defensively, it was a bit of a wash to me. As I mentioned they rebounded really well, but Boston College also shot around 50%. Pitt only had four steals and they average about twice that many. They also were often were beaten by open shots if the Eagles shot a little better from outside, it would have been even more interesting. Overall, just kind of meh. They showed some decent intensity, but it wasn't a lockdown game by any means.
Not much to draw from this win. It wasn't comfortable and while there were some encouraging things, the comedy of errors in taking care of the basketball was difficult to watch. We obviously can't say Pitt is 'back' but they did what they needed to do. The underlying theme for me really was that things could have gone better, but they could have been much worse. At this point, beggars can't be choosers and a road win at this stage of the year is important.