On Saturday, Pitt got a big game from senior guard Cameron Wright. But the fact is, that consistent offensive play from the Panthers' backcourt has been hard to come by.
Wright has been the epitome of that. Against Clemson and Georgia Tech, he averaged 19 points per game, shooting a blistering 68% from the field. In Pitt's other three ACC games, though, he not only took a step back from those games, but he was completely lost, averaging six points on 26% shooting. Part of Wright's woes can be explained on still working his way back. But I'm not sure that defense can be used too much given the fact that he has had several good games, mixed in between the bad ones since his return.
Pitt's two underclassmen guards, Chris Jones and Josh Newkirk, have also struggled to be consistent.
Jones, also a small forward, hasn't been quite as frustrating as Wright since he's not expected to do as much. But his ups and downs have still been noticeable. Jones posted big games against Florida State and Clemson, averaging 13 points and shooting nearly 50% from the field, in the other three ACC games, though, Jones has shot only 20% in averaging fewer than four points per contest. Against Georgia Tech, he was largely a non-factor in 23 minutes, scoring only one point until connecting on four free throws late.
Newkirk, the primary reserve off the bench, also has had some trouble. He not only has struggled with his shot, but also with turnovers. At times, he has kept his turnovers in check, but he also had a total of six against Florida State and North Carolina State. His big game (15 points and seven assists) was key in the Boston College win, but he's struggled outside of that offensively, too. In those other four ACC games, Newkirk shot only 7-24 (29%) and averaged only 4.5 points per game.
One Panther has been consistent lately - but unfortunately, that's not a good thing. As I wrote after the team's win against Georgia Tech, James Robinson's offense has been consistently bad lately. The defense of Robinson has always been that he runs a good offense and is a good distributor/facilitator. But even his assist totals have been down lately. Before a season-high nine against Georgia Tech on Saturday, he had averaged only 2.6 assists in his previous five games.
Robinson seemed to be fine with his expanded role earlier on, but lately, hasn't been able to do much of anything. He is shooting a dismal 7-29 in his last four games, good for 24% from the field. Equally as frustrating has been his shooting from beyond the arc. Despite being ice cold, Robinson continues to shoot three-pointers and is 0-9 in that stretch.
The problem is that the more he misses, the more opposing teams will let him shoot. And when it comes down to it, what's a point guard to do? He can't pass up every three-pointer if he's wide open. I won't begrudge him taking a three-pointer if left wide open or late in the shot clock. What Robinson can't do, though, is what I've seen him do this season - and that's hoisting up long-range shots early in the shot clock before Pitt has reasonably exhausted its options.
20% for Jones in three games? 26% for Wright? 29% and 24% for Jones and Robinson, respectively, in four games? Pitt can manage if a couple of those guys have a bad game. Shooting below 30% with such regularity, however, is something that can't continue.
We've put so much on the fact that Pitt needs more of a presence inside and I don't doubt that. But the play in the backcourt has been equally disturbing.
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