Things started out promising enough for Pitt, but in the end, they fell short to Louisville, 69-56.
During the game thread, with Pitt clinging to a small lead, I wondered aloud if they could keep it up against the press and on the road against a talented team. Surely, I wasn't the only one who felt that way and those suspicions turned out to be warranted.
Overall, Pitt just looked like a team that ran out of gas. They surged ahead out of halftime and whatever Jamie Dixon said/did during the intermission, it clearly worked. But then came the problems with the press and more missed free throws (12-21 on the night). Those were problems, but more than even that, Louisville's talent just took over.
Montrezl Harrell was unguardable (28 points and 12 rebounds) and just too much to overcome. Terry Rozier was too much to handle as well with 22 points and ten rebounds. Both are NBA players and make Louisville a tough matchup for just about anybody.
The most noticeable thing was the runs that Louisville had. After a quick 4-0 Pitt lead, the Cardinals went on a 9-0 run. There were separate 8-2 and 8-3 runs also in that first half. In the second half, there were runs of 10-0 and 12-1. Pitt had two field goals in the final 12 minutes of the game ... and both came in garbage time in the final 1:34. Saying that the Panthers went cold would be an understatement.
For the first time in a while, Jamel Artis didn't have a great game. He still did pretty well with 15 points and nine rebounds, but shot only 4-13 from the field. Mike Young led the team with 16 points, but had only four rebounds as he was just bullied quite a bit by Harrell on the glass. Pitt had a ten-rebound deficit in rebounding and that's pretty hard to make up. And when you shoot only 38% to the opponent's 50% from the field, that's going to result in a loss most of the time.
Pitt was without Cam Wright, who missed the game and as I wrote in the comments section of a recent post, it's pretty clear that they could really use him. He hasn't been all that consistent this season, but none of Pitt's guards have been. The Panthers were forced to trot out walk-on Mike Lecak in minutes that actually mattered, and that shows just how shorthanded the team is without Wright and with Newkirk continuing to mostly struggle. James Robinson and Newkirk combined for 12 points on 4-12 shooting and Pitt just needs as many available options as possible because none of the guards can be counted on to show up night in and night out.
Robinson, in particular, continues to take a step forward and a step back. After a few solid games, including the great effort to help Pitt past Notre Dame, he's back to struggling. He has only six field goals in his past three games and has shot only 6-22 in that stretch. Newkirk has been just as bad and hasn't had a legitimately strong game since Boston College near the beginning of the New Year.
Like I said, consistency has been quite the issue in the backcourt.
I don't know, it's hard to get too worked up over a game like this. At home, Louisville was supposed to win and even when Pitt got ahead, the feeling that they could get toppled at any minute was still there.
Overall, it's hard not to be pleased with the effort for about 35 minutes of the game. The Panthers fell apart late and really made the final score look a little worse than it was. Still, a loss is a loss and the last five to ten minutes of the game showed how far Pitt still is from the elite teams. There's now a little more pressure to somehow steal a win against Virginia or North Carolina to bolster the NCAA Tournament hopes.
- (Don't) Bet The Farm: Louisville
- Pitt softball off to 5-0 start to season; best in program history
- Difficult stretch could be key to Panthers' season
- Pitt forward Jamel Artis named ACC Player of the Week
- Pitt's recruiting class better than it appears