No, it wasn't a misprint, or a bad dream - this actually happened. Pitt lost to Hawaii 74-70 early Saturday morning (or, locally, late Friday night). Obviously we don't have much to go on with this one other than the box score since it wasn't on TV. If you want a little more advanced reading on the game, Paul Zeise of the Post Gazette is in Maui covering the trip and gave his thoughts. I actually share a lot of his views about this being early in the season. They are playing without their best defender, and that they have to get better defensively as a whole.
Hawaii led Pitt 40-36 at halftime, and the teams played to a 34 all tie in the second half, so that four point margin proved to be the difference. Pitt is typically a team that holds the opposition to far less than 40 points in a half, and it's pretty apparent this is not a good defensive team right now. But it's one that will get better as the year goes on with more guys getting experience, and Cameron Wright being added to the mix in a few short weeks.
Chris Jones led the Panthers in scoring with 19 points on 5-8 shooting behind the three-point arc. Michael Young chipped in 13 points and 9 rebounds, with James Robinson adding 12 points and 6 assists. After two strong games to start the year, Jamel Artis was held scoreless on a 0-6 shooting night. The two centers, Joe Uchebo and Derrick Randall, provided just 13 minutes of game action total with two points and one rebound combined as the center spot is not giving Pitt much to date. In a bit of a surprise, true freshman Ryan Luther played, providing four points and two rebounds.
It did not seem to be offense that hold the Panthers down in this one, but allowing Hawaii to shoot 52.9% from the field did. Pitt is a team that historically that thrives off of their defense, and playing a grind-it-out style. It appears this team is a bit more skilled on offense, with their defense lagging behind. Jamie Dixon's squad may have to reinvent themselves a little this year and rely on the offense.
While losing to Hawaii to start a big road trip is far from ideal, I still don't think it's time to panic about Pitt just yet. They are essentially all underclassmen out there, and they haven't figured everything out just yet in their lineup. In year's past, they knew they had a guy like a Lamar Patterson or a Brad Wannamaker could go in and will the team to win, they don't have that guy yet - but they have the talent to make something of this season. Add in the fact Cameron Wright is injured and could be that guy, and Durand Johnson is suspended who may also have been that guy, and you had to figure Pitt's first road test would be a difficult one.
Nobody expected Pitt to dominate the Rainbow Warriors, and many actually said it was a daring scheduling move by Dixon to even play this game. I would have to agree on that, and maybe this serves as a wake up call of sorts. Pitt is going to get better when Wright comes back into the mix. Even if Pitt doesn't come out and look spectacular in the Maui Invitational itself, just by being there and playing those games will make the team better. It is OK to lose games in basketball as long as you lose games with some meaning, and road games and neutral site games to big time teams are ones with meaning. My point is, I don't think Pitt fans need to start freaking out just yet, it's a long season.