Pitt came into the their game against St. Bonaventure as an eight-point favorite, but the Bonnies gave the Panthers trouble all day. In crunch time, Pitt had to survive several miscues to pull out a 58-54 win.
Pitt wasn't perfect in this game, but as I pointed out in writing the gamethread post, the Bonnies are a decent team. This is a team that went to the NCAAs a couple of years ago and will have the chance to do so again this season. They were 6-1 heading into the game and their sole loss was a three-point defeat. A lot will be made of the fact that they're not a major-conference team, but they could be a Tournament team this year - and the fact is that wins against tourney teams are always good for a resume.
The Pitt offense was again an issue and the team shot only 40% from the field. No one had a huge night offensively (five players scored at least nine points and Mike Young and Jamel Artis led the way with 14 each) and the team can win with balanced scoring. What causes them trouble, though, is when guys are just bricking shots. Young was 3-10 from the field. Cam Wright was 0-4. James Robinson 4-11. Pitt just can't have that many missed shots to be effective.
Another problem is when Pitt was missing shots. The Panthers made only three of their nine shots in the final eight minutes and that was a big reason the game was closer than it probably should have been. Pitt held an 11-point lead with about 11 minutes left to play, but they couldn't hold it due their poor shooting.
Then there were the plays near the end that nearly cost Pitt the game.
Young had several negative plays late in the second-half and was one of the culprits, despite posting some big numbers. Within the final five minutes, he had two turnovers - the second of which was a ball slapped away that dribbled off his leg out of bounds with only 33 seconds left to give St. Bonaventure the ball. The Bonnies then cut the Pitt lead to two on a layup immediately after that. Young also missed three of five free throws in the final 1:03 of the game (one was a non-issue at the very end) and that helped the Bonnies stick around, too.
Young also had help in the derp department. Josh Newkirk gave Pitt nine points off the bench, but had an utter brain fart committing a needless foul when Pitt had a four-point lead with 25 seconds left in the game. St. Bonaventure was able to cut the lead to two and, most importantly, hardly any time came off the clock. Just a really, really inexplicable error. Equally as bad was what he pulled next, fouling a three-point shooter with only about five seconds left in the game as the Panthers clung to a three-point lead. Fortunately for the Panthers, Jaylen Adams made only two of his three free throws and Pitt knocked down a few of their own to close out the game.
Several Panthers, including Derrick Randall, Sheldon Jeter, and Cameron Johnson didn't play.
I wrote about this in the thread, but panic has to be kept to a minimum here. While it's a game Pitt should win at home a little easier than they did, we're still only about 1/3 of the way through the season.
In addition, as the announcers pointed out during the broadcast, this is just a really young team. The only senior, Wright, has barely played and Pitt has one junior, James Robinson, giving them significant minutes. That's it, folks - the rest of these guys are all underclassmen. Quite simply, there are going to be games like this where mistakes are made at the end.
This isn't excuse-making as much as it is rationalizing a slow start to the season with the fact that Pitt is essentially playing with all underclassmen. Pretty much any team with underclassmen playing nearly all of the minutes is going to struggle.
That's not to say the team will be a great one by season's end when they have more games under their belts. They don't have a consistent go to scorer as they did last season with Lamar Patterson, several players like Newkirk and Artis today really have put out some subpar defensive efforts (they're hardly the only ones - just the ones sticking out in my mind right now), and the team isn't all that offensively efficient right now. But they will get better by the end of the year, I'm convinced, and I'm hardly going to make firm decisions on how good (or bad) this team is until we get a little further along in the season.
The game was closer than you want, but in the end, it was a victory.
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