After opening ACC play on the road against the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Boston College Eagles, it would have been nice for the Pittsburgh Panthers to get a convincing win at home. It's kind of odd to say that this was a must-win game, but when you look over their schedule, these are the types of games that they'll need to win if they want to make the NCAA Tournament.
Of course, that's not what happened. Despite not having won an ACC game going into Saturday afternoon, the Clemson Tigers played with more energy and a greater sense of urgency on their way to a 71-62 victory.
Pitt started the game strong. Three different players connected on the team's first three possessions, and a triple by sophomore guard/forward Chris Jones gave the Panthers an 11-8 lead going into the first media timeout. However, Clemson scored on their next four possessions coming out of the timeout and took a 17-14 lead going into the next media timeout.
A 2-3 zone by the Tigers about midway through the first half stifled Pitt, but the Panthers countered with a full-court press and a 2-3 zone of their own late in the half. Eight straight points by senior guard Cameron Wright to close the half allowed his team to go into the half trailing by just five, 36-31.
The Pitt team that fans hoped would show up more or less did early in the second half. Their energy level increased, they ran a more recognizable offense, but Clemson continued to make shots. A baseline jumper by sophomore forward Jamel Artis at the 13:46 mark tied the game at 44-44. The wheels came off after that.
The Panthers managed to score just three points over the next seven minutes; the Tigers went on a 14-3 run over that span. Credit Clemson for making contested shots, but they also were able to finish really good looks around the rim. The Tigers never looked back from there despite a late, but mostly ineffective, late push from Pitt.
The Panthers were led by 18 points from Wright on 8-11 from the floor. Jones chipped in with 11 points including 3-6 from three-point range.
Clemson was led by the 18 points by sophomore forward Jaron Blossomgame.
Pitt was absolutely hammered on the boards; they were out rebounded 39-22. They relinquished a few costly offensive boards late which ended any hope of a comeback.
Sure, 1-2 isn't as bad as 0-3, but there aren't a lot of things to be excited about right now if you're a fan of Panthers basketball as they continue ACC play. The team will try to rebound next Wednesday against the Florida State Seminoles (9-6, 1-1).