Before the game, Brian over at BC Interruption predicted Pitt would win ugly over Boston College. That's essentially what happened after a six-point Panthers win on Tuesday.
It didn't have to be that way, really. Pitt was cruising early and jumped out to a commanding 35-20 lead with under three minutes left in the first half. For a while, a 20-point win looked like it could be in the books. As BC Interruption noted after the game, Pitt really benefited from a lot of Eagles' turnovers in those first 20 minutes.
But several missed shots and ten consecutive Eagles points cut that to five at the half. For what has to be officially considered the umpteenth time, the Panthers gave up a three-pointer just before halftime to keep Boston College within striking distance.
A frustrating thing to watch was that Pitt didn't exactly regroup at the half and the Eagles kept things close most of the second half. The Panthers, in fact, led by only three with under five minutes left in the game before pulling away.
Like I said - ugly.
The pros - Pitt got a win they needed. They also looked good when it counted late, making their free throws and keeping Boston College from making it closer. It was also again the Jamel Artis and Mike Young show - those two combined for 46 points and 17 boards. They were 21-26 from the line and I know we've said it a lot this year, but the future is pretty bright with those two guys around.
The Panthers also continue to get production from Sheldon Jeter. For the sixth straight game, he's helped out to the tune of nine points, including another three-pointer. Scoring about 12 points a game over that stretch, he not only gives the team some more offense, but really provides more of a three-point presence out there - he's hit on 40% of his attempts in those six games.
On a more minor note, Pitt also got Aron Nwankwo-Phillips back into the lineup for the first time in seven games. He's been dealing with a shoulder injury and while he isn't a factor most nights, he just provides additional depth out there in the frontcourt. That's especially helpful when the team gets someone like Mike Young in foul trouble as was the case in a recent game.
The cons are just as easy to spot. The real issue for the Panthers here is that after they jumped out to that big lead, they couldn't keep it up and let Boston College get back into the game. Blowing a lead that big that quickly should never happen and the fact that it did as Pitt is clawing and scratching to get into the NCAA Tournament is kind of discouraging.
In terms of individual players, Jeter's production has been important because the team is getting next to nothing from Josh Newkirk right now. He was held scoreless for the third time in four games and as the reduction in his minutes is showing, he's really falling out of favor. Chris Jones also had a very unproductive night despite playing 26 minutes but he's had some big games for Pitt lately and still very much a part of things.
In addition, Pitt let another opposing star go bonkers as Olivier Hanlan poured in 39 points. Now, Hanlan has scored plenty against other teams, but the 39 was easily a season-high (his previous high this year was 32) and the most points he scored since going for 41 as a freshman. Aaron Brown also had 20, but unfortunately for the Eagles, no one else showed up on offense at all as the rest of the team combined for six points. The inability to stop players from having big scoring nights is a future indictment of the team's defense and that's exactly the type of thing that can lead to early tournament exits or upset losses.
To be fair, Pitt has held other big name players down at times (i.e. keeping Jahlil Okafor in check, albeit in a bad loss against Duke, springs to mind), but the Panthers have allowed a good number of players to utterly go off this year.
I'm not thrilled with the blown lead - especially since it was at home against a bad team and practically all blown in the space of about five minutes. But I'm also not going to fret too much about it. Running into guys like Hanlan and Brown who have great games will mean the final score is generally a close one. Fortunately, Hanlan's really as good as it gets in terms of scoring points and Pitt won't face too many other guys like that. He's the type of player that allows them to keep things close if not contained.
The team needs to keep its focus and hopefully it served as somewhat of a wake up call. But it's still good to get a win and gets them to 19-10 on the year.
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