Well, it certainly wasn't as ugly as the Louisville game or even the Miami contest. But the Panthers still lost against Clemson on Saturday, 67-60, to continue their recent string of ugly games. Pitt now drops to last place in the conference as even 9-12 Boston College has won two conference games to the Panthers' one.
Clemson resided in last place heading into the game but as I pointed out in the gamethread preview, many of their losses have been close. I'm not convinced they're necessarily a bad team. But as in the cases of the Miami game, you have to win these types of games at home to be relevant.
Pitt finally shook the slow starts that have doomed them recently with 36 points in the first half. But they scored only 24 in the second and just went cold from the field. Jamel Artis and Michael Young in particular continue to do less. Artis had a decent game with 16 points but Young had 14 on only 3-16 shooting. That included taking an ungodly seven three-point attempts.
Bench play, of course, was mostly a non-factor. Those guys played a little more (33 combined minutes) but still weren't very productive. Jonathan Milligan hit a pair of three-pointers that accounted for all of the bench scoring and Rozelle Nix grabbed three rebounds in his usual effort-filled minutes, but just not much there from the reserves. In all, they had a total of six points and four boards.
All of that said, there's one pretty big point I want to make here. Don't be fooled by this close game.
The game was relatively close, but you shouldn't be deceived because of that. I attribute that to playing an easier team than I do so much that Pitt played better. Pitt still shot a miserable 33% from the field and was outrebounded while allowing their opponent to shoot over 50% from the field. I don't know what the final total was in the paint, but at one point pretty late in the game, it was 28-8 in favor of Clemson. To me, they simply had the fortune of not playing a much better team that was capable of running them out of the gym. There will be a lot of talk about the effort being significantly better, but other than hitting a few more shots, I just didn't see much of that. This was simply much more about playing a team closer to their skill level.
Regarding Pitt's coach, Kevin Stallings, I continue to say that while this team may not be ideal, things shouldn't be this bad. There's having a down year and then there's looking utterly incapable. That's where we are. The idea that he absolutely deserves three years to me shrinks a bit more with every loss. And while something like that seems unthinkable, what if Pitt loses out or wins only 1-2 more games? Should it be completely off the table?
There is wanting to give a coach time to get his own players in, regroup, etc. But the way this team is responding to him as a coach (a team that made the NCAA Tournament last year) is laughable. At some point, you begin to wonder if he cannot reach these guys enough to win even these sorts of games, why would he reach other players enough to the point that Pitt will contend for ACC titles? Sure, new players may help Pitt be marginally better in the ACC. It isn't impossible to think that he could get a team into the middle of the pack. But that's not what we're after. If the goal is to win ACC titles, it gets harder and harder to imagine the program doing that under Stallings. With any players.
As a rule, coaches deserve time to get things turned around and get his own players. But at the same token, taking what was a decent team and turning them into this must warrant some degree of speculation from fans and the administration. Stallings must be evaluated at the end of the year and at this point, I don't think anything should really be off the table. After all, if you cannot be convinced that he will turn things around, what would be the point in waiting to dismiss him? And, by the way, should he stay for three years and not improve the team, the state of the program will be considerably worse and make it more difficult to attract a better coach and, just as importantly, stay in the minds of recruits as a relevant school
That Pitt didn't win today isn't much of a surprise given how the last several games have gone. But that they didn't is sort of a death knell of the season to me. If you can't beat the last-place team at home, how much hope can there really be going forward with so many hard games left? Much of the season remains but at this point, that seems more like a punishment than a reason why things can turn around.
Pitt now goes on the road to face both North Carolina and Duke in back-to-back games. Seems manageable.
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