Pitt lost its third straight game on Saturday, falling to Virginia Tech, 81-67. The Panthers hung around for much of the game, trailing only by three with about six minutes left, but then fell apart down the stretch. Virginia Tech also deserves credit in finishing the game 7-9 from the field. Really, it was a much closer game than the final score indicated. If you’re looking for encouragement, it’s that.
I think we all understood that Pitt wasn’t going to hang with the conference elite or even those that will probably be in the middle of the pack. Where you hope Pitt can be competitive is against the lesser ACC teams where Virginia Tech and some others project. Was Pitt competitive today? Yes. But when you’re as inexperienced as they are, you see the impact of not having a guy like Ryan Luther out there. As we saw in some non-conference games, Pitt can defeat bad teams without him. But it’s going to be really difficult to defeat an ACC team without him. Any ACC team. They basically need everything to go their way or run into a really cold team.
And even though Virginia Tech might not be a great team, they’re not bad, already defeating several P5 teams, including Iowa, Ole Miss, and Washington. Plus, playing on the road didn’t make it any easier.
Jared Wilson-Frame led the team with 20 points but still managed 16 shots, including a bunch down the stretch. He mostly had a great game but then missed his last eight shots of the game and was one of the reasons things got out of hand late. He played over 30 minutes, which would typically be too many. But he shot well until the end today and, without Luther, Stallings’ options are limited. I had much less of an issue with his minutes today because he mostly shot pretty well.
Marcus Carr continued to struggle with turnovers, racking up six of them. But he also was active, grabbing five rebounds and made three of six three-pointers. Plus, he wasn’t the only culprit as Pitt had 17 turnovers to Virginia Tech’s six. That, along with Pitt hitting another scoring drought late, was probably your story of the game. The defense was lacking, too, of course.
Those scoring droughts, by the way, are a real issue. They had one that spanned more than seven minutes without a field goal from the end of the first half into the second half. The turnovers are problematic, particularly when you’re not forcing many. But when you go five, six, seven minutes without a field goal, that’s just as damaging.
To the turnovers, I’m not going to get on Carr’s case. He’s out there learning and being asked to do quite a bit. I just can’t find it in me to get worked up over it. He’ll get better with taking care of the ball and is still doing other things out there, like grabbing five rebounds, dishing out assists, and continuing to shoot really well from beyond the arc (he was 3-6 today for another great day there).
I wanted to see Pitt competitive today and they were until the end. It would have been nice to make more plays and play some better defense, but without Luther, these are more games that you hope to win rather than expect to win.