Well that was ... something.
ICYMI, Pitt’s basketball team blew a large lead against Mount St. Mary’s before recovering in overtime to win, 82-78. Big picture is that they’re now 5-4 on the year and have won four straight games. Now for the ‘little’ picture.
Overall, I don’t know what was more frustrating - how sloppy Pitt was or how they blew several what should have been an insurmountable lead. The Panthers had 17 turnovers and if that sounds bad, consider that they also had a 15-point lead with only about 8 1⁄2 minutes left in the second half before losing it.
There’s no real excuse for this, obviously. You expect this team to have some rough nights and, as I’ve been preaching so far this year, that’s going to continue all season long. They’re just too young and too inexperienced to not have games that are going to be complete disasters. Where is that train wreck gif when I need it?
But what isn’t acceptable is taking games that are completely in hand and turning them into dumpster fires for no good reason. Even against good teams, a lead like that should hold up. But against lower-end mid majors, I mean, that just can’t happen, right?
Ironically, while I wrote about Luther being Pitt’s best player earlier, he picked an awful time to have his worst game of the year offensively. Luther had only four points and was 2-11 from the field. He did grab a career-high 16 rebounds so it’s not like he was dead weight out there. But his offensive struggles were part of the reason the game went down to the wire. As I said earlier today, if you take his rebounding off of the team, you’ve got a completely different squad. And while his shooting didn’t help the Panthers today, there’s no doubt that his work on the glass was key.
Marcus Carr continues to get more impressive. He’s not necessarily scoring in bunches or anything and he again had a bad night with the turnovers (five). But he led the team in scoring with 23 points, picking up the slack left by Luther and when the game was on the line with about 20 seconds left and a tie score, he drove to the basket for a nice layup. On the next possession, he read a pass perfectly and would have come up with a steal had he not tried to dart downcourt too early, losing the ball out of bounds.
That proved to be costly since Mount St. Mary’s would get the ball back and tie it up, sending it to overtime. There, at least, the Panthers prevailed.
The great thing about Carr is that he’s been pretty efficient, too. He’s not chucking up a ton of shots just to get points. Anyone can do that. Carr is shooting right around 50% on the season, which is remarkable given how young he is and how bad of a team this is. He was 7-13 tonight and he also made seven of his eight free throw attempts while knocking down two of four from three-point range. Carr, by the way, isn’t just making gimmes - he’s shooting almost 50% from long distance on the entire season. That kid is getting really good in a hurry.
Shamiel Stevenson continues to look great and had another big game with 14 points and nine rebounds. And it was good to see Jared Wilson-Frame somewhat back on track with 15 points. Finally, in the ‘unlikely heroes’ category, Pitt also got 12 points out of freshman Khameron Davis off the bench in easily his best game to date. Between Davis tonight and Parker Stewart in a few games, Pitt’s gotten some decent performances off of the bench from guards, which had been a weak area in recent years. Good to see some depth there - young depth, too.
In any other year, these would be the kind of games that would get you riled up. But if we’re being honest here, in a season with no expectations, that would seem like an unneeded exaggeration. Pitt was clearly the better team but decided to let up a little once they got ahead. That’s a lesson as we saw last year that is something even veteran players struggle with. With a team of largely underclassmen, it’s not a surprise and my guess is that it will happen again. Frustrating? Yep. But at least the Panthers got a win out of it and, hopefully, enough of a scare that they remember it.
Next up is a big game against West Virginia on Saturday. Pitt has had a nice time getting some wins over cupcakes but this weekend will be a good barometer to see if they’re capable of staying in games against better teams. The immediate reaction wants to say they’re not ready for this yet and that’s almost certainly true. But at the same time, the ACC season will be here before you know it and they’re about to be facing teams that good on a pretty regular basis, ready or not.