Pitt hung with Louisville for about five minutes but after that, simply couldn’t keep up with the Cardinals, who defeated the Panthers on Tuesday, 77-51.
If you’ve been watching Pitt this season against some of the better teams they’ve faced, you start to see a trend of scoring droughts. The Panthers had a few of them tonight with the first coming in the first half when they went about eight minutes without scoring a point. That took Pitt from a 1-point lead to a 16-point deficit.
Hardly anyone will survive that and when you add in that Pitt also had other smaller scoring droughts, had some turnover issues, and was beaten soundly on the boards, I mean, it’s kind of a head-scratcher that they didn’t lose by even more. Some really good teams might be able to weather that a little with good defense but the Panthers don’t have that, either.
Some of this, of course, isn’t fair since the Panthers are missing their best player in senior Ryan Luther. You take away any team’s best player and almost all will look significantly different. Imagine, for example, how exposed Pitt looked last year playing without Jamel Artis in an upset loss to Duquesne last season. Luther’s loss really is starting to show. I don’t know that Pitt wins any of these games they’ve lost with him in there but I think they’re a little more competitive.
But some of the Panthers’ issues are self-inflicted. The biggest problem I’ve noticed is that offensive possessions just aren’t valued the way they need to be. Pitt again took plenty of threes tonight but I thought that some were really poor shots. It could be a faulty memory but more of them looked contested tonight. Louisville coach David Padgett was said to have talked about wanting to get Pitt’s players off of the three-point line and I thought they defended the arc really well.
When those shots are open and Pitt feels they need to shoot 20-25 of them, I can live with it. But the Panthers seemed to be barely running any sort of coherent offense at all and it felt like they were more interested in settling for bad shots than working to free guys up for open looks.
Combine that with not having a real weapon on offense and the result is the prolonged stretches without buckets. Pitt doesn’t have guys completely without talent, mind you. But they’re just really young and no one really qualifies as a go to guy. Right now, Pitt has a few guys capable of scoring points but none that is going to dominate possessions on a regular basis. You can win without that. Pitt rode a team kind of like that in 2010-11 to a No. 1 seed, after all. But that team had a lot of experience and guys that knew how to get the most out of offensive possessions.
For me, the game was kind of a disappointment. As I wrote earlier, I figured Louisville would come out with a little more focus after being blown out by Kentucky. But this was still a team that lost by 29 only a few days ago and recently, only beat Albany by two points. I didn’t expect Pitt to win this game but figured it would be more competitive. We’d seen Pitt again some better ranked teams like West Virginia and Miami where they played somewhat respectably but the frustrating thing is that, even against lesser teams like Louisville and Penn State, they’ve actually looked worse.
I’m not going to go crazy with the individual performances but one I wanted to point out was that of Jared Wilson-Frame. Wilson-Frame is becoming somewhat of a punching bag for fans not only for shooting so poorly but shooting so much. He came off the bench tonight as Pitt started five freshmen (according to the Post-Gazette’s Craig Meyer, that’s the first time that’s happened). Even though he didn’t start, Wilson-Frame still managed to lead the team with 13 shots. It’d be one thing if he was even shooting halfway decent but he was 2-13 tonight, 5-13 against Miami, and 3-16 against Towson ... and that’s just the last three games.
Meanwhile, a guy like Khameron Davis who is shooting over 50% from the field and, even more astonishing, more than 50% from three-point range is getting five or six shots a game.
It doesn’t add up and at some point, head coach Kevin Stallings is going to have to figure it out. If he’s the offensive guru we’re made to believe he is, he’s got to find a way to get other guys more shots. Wilson-Frame is a junior and isn’t the future of the team. If he could be a solid contributor, that’d be great. But if not, Pitt has to get some other guys like Davis more shots and have Wilson-Frame playing less.
I hate doing overly long recaps after these games because, as I’ve alluded to earlier, I just think it’s kind of pointless. For all of the analysis out there, all of the insight, the problems with Pitt right now all boil down to one thing - a lack of experience. That’s it, plain and simple.
And there’s no cure for that except for these guys to play more games.