First things first - sorry I couldn't jump in the gamethread. I was able to watch the game, but not in a position to comment since I was out.
Okay, so back to that final score. Yikes.
Look, I fully expected a Pitt win here, but was a bit concerned with how good Clemson has looked this season. My general thought was that Pitt would win by double figures off of the big loss to Syracuse over the weekend, but that a single-digit win was entirely possible. A 33-point beatdown? Got to say I didn't see that coming.
The win really proved something I tried to make clear in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Pitt was regularly winning with ease and while they weren't beating teams by 40 or 50, it was probably a bit easy for them to get disinterested at times. Pitt surely could have beaten some of those early teams by far worse, had there not been as much experimenting with the roster and had their interest been kept.
Is Pitt really 33 points better than Clemson? Probably not. The Tigers got a bad break losing K.J. McDaniels earlier in the game with his second foul and shot only 32% for the game. At 43% on the season, they don't shoot lights out but they're better than that. Some nights the shots just don't fall (i.e. Pitt vs. Cincinnati) and when you couple that with the fact that Pitt shot lights out at 56%, things like that will happen.
The other factor is that Clemson just never could settle in. Pitt raced out to a quick lead and they never even got close. After a while, they just looked out of sorts and didn't quite know how to dig themselves out of the hole. New team, new venue - I just think they were entirely too uncomfortable.
Clemson coach Brad Brownell said it best, I think:
"All of a sudden you get slapped in the face a little bit and it's real," he said. "There's nowhere to hide."
"Our guys played like a young team that got a little nervous," Brownell said.
This wasn't all about Clemson playing bad, though. Once again, Pitt showed what they're capable of when they play hard, with purpose, and shoot well. Pitt will win 75% of their games by putting forth a good effort. But when they're playing lights out? We may be talking about only a handful of teams that can beat them under those circumstances.
It was encouraging to see Talib Zanna put up 22 points. His two rebounds were lacking, but a lot of guys didn't rebound particularly well ... especially considering that Clemson missed so many shots. Pitt allowed Clemson to get 12 offensive boards, but at this point, we're just being picky.
The big win also allowed Jamie Dixon to get some reserves a lot of minutes. Jamel Artis played 18. Chris Jones, 20. Derrick Randall and Josh Newkirk each got 15. Those are minutes that those guys need to just get more experience for down the road and whenever you can give them that much, it's a benefit. Plus, resting the starters from time to time is a great thing, too.
Really encouraging win here. Offense played well, defense played well, free throws were made - just very few things to complain about here. What Pitt fans need to be doing now is rooting like crazy for Clemson to try to up the value of that victory. That's still a team will only five losses and they won't look as inept as they did tonight the rest of the way. The Tigers' problem, though, is that they've got a very difficult schedule the rest of the way. Road games at North Carolina, Syracuse, Florida State, and Notre Dame. Home games against Pitt and Virginia to come. They have 12 games left and winning seven to get to 20 wins won't be easy.
Next up for Pitt is a big road game against Maryland on Saturday. Playing on the road against a team Pitt embarrassed the first time around probably won't be easy. But after tonight's game, it's hard to not feel a little better about it.
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