As they have at various times in ACC play, the Pitt men’s basketball team kept things close for much of the game. Similarly, they fell apart at the end only to keep their winless ACC streak going in an 88-75 loss.
Pitt (8-20) held a lead for a good part of the first half and took a one-point lead into halftime. But they were also going up against a team without two of its best players. Terance Mann, Florida State’s (19-8) leading scorer, along with Braian Angola (the third-leading scorer), sat out the first half with no real explanation. They returned in the second half and while they didn’t have huge games, Mann in particular made some nice plays.
This was another one of those that was closer than the final score indicated. The Panthers were down only three inside of three and a half minutes but, as they often have, couldn’t keep up late.
That’s been a popular theme this year. Pitt’s been somewhat close a few times at the ends of games but has always fallen short both offensively and defensively. It’s almost kind of comical how routinely it happens. Despite being down only three late, you just had the feeling that there was no way Pitt was winning that game.
You hear a lot about guys just needing to learn to win. About needing experienced players down the stretch. About stars taking over late in games. I mean, all of that is true. But you almost have to think that even with plain, dumb luck a team will manage to win one such game despite not having any of that. If there’s a thought that Stallings has had numerous times this year, it’s got to be that. Anyone who’s coached this long has to believe that.
Jared Wilson-Frame and Shamiel Stevenson led Pitt with 17 each while Parker Stewart had 16. Jonathan Milligan added 12 and Pitt shot 50% from the field for the game. The offense, which hasn’t been there much of this year, was actually there today and Pitt still lost by double digits.
That shows you how bad this year’s team really is. Today, realistically, is about as good as you can expect the Panthers to play offensively. Marcus Carr had an off game and was only 1-9 from the field, but to get that much production from four guys is about as good as it gets for Pitt. Unfortunately, the team just doesn’t have much to offer defensively and the big theme today was Florida State shooting 40 free throws to only 22 for Pitt.
You let a team shoot 18 more free throws and, no matter how well you play offensively, you’re going to have a tough time because you’re giving an opponent too many opportunities for easy points. You can talk a lot about making teams work for points on offense. That was one thing I thought Jamie Dixon’s teams did. Teams would score points but Pitt would push them around quite a bit and make them work for them. But when you send a team to the free throw line 18 more times, you’re just making things far too easy.
I thought Pitt did some encouraging things today but no one is really going to pay that much attention to that. For one thing, a large part of the fanbase checked out weeks ago. For another thing, the ones that are still watching have seen this movie. Like, a lot.
Ultimately, anything positive that the team does, short of winning, just doesn’t matter.