The Pittsburgh Panthers (8-22, 0-17) will now have just one chance left to try and get an ACC win after they were blown out by the Virginia Cavaliers (26-2, 15-1) on Saturday afternoon. Given that it was senior night, you could partially imagine a scenario in which Pitt would come out really hot, right? Well, that didn’t happen. Virginia basically scored out of a layup line to open the game, converting six of their first seven attempts, and started the game on a 8-0 run. On the other side, the Panthers were unable to convert a field goal until the 10:00 mark, much to the relief of the Oakland Zoo.
To their credit, Pitt did run more off-ball movement than any other game I’ve seen them play this year (but only in stretches). It was nice to see the guards set an off-ball screen into an on-ball screen before flaring to receive a pass. Still, the Cavaliers executed on defense like they were connected to a hive mind: The communication between the guards on switches was nearly flawless, the bigs recovered and fronted the post with help behind them, the entire team either rebounded or boxed out. It was very impressive to watch, honestly.
This graphic pretty much sums up the first half for the Panthers:
Yep, that one filled-in circle on the right side is the lone Pitt basket by junior guard/forward Jared Wilson-Frame. The Panthers trailed 30-7 at halftime, and like several conference games, things didn’t get better in the second half.
Wilson-Frame on what makes playing against the UVa defense so difficult:
“There are actually a few defenses that play the way they do, but not at the level.”
Tony Bennett on holding Pitt to 7 points at the half:
“I’ve been on the other side of that. It’s a hard feeling.”
Sophomore forward Kene Chukwuka got the Panthers on the board in the second half far sooner than 10 minutes in (18:40 mark). Pitt also made a nice little 11-4 run a few minutes later powered by two, three-pointers by freshman guard Parker Stewart and capped-off by a breakaway dunk by freshman guard Khameron Davis. But, that just brought the Panthers within 15 points.
Graduate guard Nigel Johnson and freshman guard De’Andre Hunter immediately started a 8-2 run that saw Virginia take a 30-point lead and essentially end even the faintest notion that Pitt might get back into the game. They rolled from start to finish to the tune of a 66-37 beatdown in the home finale for the Panthers.
Pitt was led by Stewart’s 12 points all coming on triples; he was 4-10 from the field and 4-8 from beyond the three-point line. He was the only player that reached double-figures for the Panthers.
Senior guard Ty Jerome was the only starter for the Cavaliers to reach double-figures, not that the team needed more. He had 13 points on a efficient 5-10 from the field. Hunter and Johnson combined for 26 points on 9-15 from the floor and a perfect 4-4 from long distance. Hunter added 10 rebounds, for the only double-double of the game.
Head Coach Kevin Stallings on how his team started the game:
“On film, I thought it was the best Virginia team, at least since Tony’s been there...Defensively, they just don’t have any weaknesses...I thought we were a little intimidated in the first half, which surprised me.”
Stallings had a positive approach to the future potential of the team, but was realistic for how this season has played out:
“It’s not where we want to be, and it’s not where we’re going to be.”
“You got a bunch of guys getting minutes this year, that if the program was in the shape that we desired it to be, they wouldn’t be.”
We’ll see if Pitt can finally put it together next Wednesday against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (17-12, 7-9).