Okay, so I mentioned in the SB Nation Pittsburgh preview that Pitt could have some trouble with Wagner but ... this? No, I didn't see this coming.
Greg's already been over this, but I've got a few of the same thoughts. Pitt looked disinterested and played as lackadaisical as maybe they have all season long. The disgusting thing was that Wagner didn't even play all that well, either. They looked sharp in the first half, but in the second, went completely dry offensively. Only thing was that Pitt couldn't capitalize. At all.
I'll get to the turnovers and shooting in a bit, but one thing that drove me absolutely nuts was the lack of help defense. Wagner got to the basket early and often and several times, met little resistance in the paint. Just once it would have been nice if a Pitt defender turned around to see what was going on.
When they weren't busy turning the ball over, they clanged shots off the rim (or in Isaiah Epps' case, didn't even catch rim). They shot under 40% from the field and had 18 turnovers - pretty much an ideal recipe for losing a game.
Pitt showed some heart late in the game ... really late. With a few minutes left, they made things interesting. A huge play, as I wrote about in the SB Nation recap, was a big foul on J.J. Moore in the final minute or thereabouts. Pitt had forced Wagner into a turnover, but Moore committed the foul as the ball was sailing out of bounds. The ref clearly made the right call and it was just a bad foul. That, in a nutshell, summed up Pitt's entire night.
The Panthers were just really flat and this game showed exactly why the team is desperately in need of a second scorer in Tray Woodall's absence. Woodall definitely appears to be that player, but with him out, there's no one else to fill that role. 54 points is an utter embarrassment, though, and Pitt simply has to do better offensively. Against Wagner, though, Pitt didn't even have a primary option with Ashton Gibbs struggling the way he did. I'm not sure what the deal is with him this season, but something's definitely up. He's been off more times than not and as unsure as his draft stock was last season, it's looking like it could be even worse this year without a Herculean effort in the NCAAs or a big-time improvement in the Big East portion of the schedule.
Part of that is about hanging onto the ball. Pitt had 18 turnovers tonight and while it doesn't happen every game, they've had several where they've looked downright sloppy. Unlike the scoring, though, that isn't simply a Woodall fix. He's been one of the bigger offenders, averaging 3.5 on the season and has turned it over at least three times in every game he's played except one. In two of his seven games, he's had at least five.
My panic alert level is still pretty light seeing as how the team hasn't played a single Big East game yet. But based on what we've seen so far, an early NCAA exit or a bad seed isn't out of the question. I do think Pitt will still reach the tournament, though. They play in the Big East and that always not only helps because of RPI, but because they'll have lots of chances to add some impressive wins to their resume. They're 11-2 right now and even a pedestrian 9-9 probably gets them in. After tonight, nine Big East wins might look a long ways away, but until Pitt shows me they can't do it one of these years, I have a hard time saying this is the year.