A competitive game was expected by most tonight but, unfortunately, that’s not what any of us saw. Pitt was out of this from the get go and was never even close to giving Clemson a run in an ugly 82-69 loss. The finish was much more respectable than what it should have been. This had all the look of a 30-point loss.
The Panthers (12-9) didn’t do themselves any favors early. Six turnovers about halfway into the first half, poor shooting, and too many fouls all contributed. But Pitt was done in by an absolute blistering shooting performance by Clemson (12-8). At one point late in the first half, they were shooting around 75% from the field and over 70% from three-point range. I said it in the game thread but it bears repeating here. I don’t know that anyone, including Duke, would have been able to keep up with them tonight. Sometimes it’s just your night in shooting the ball and tonight was Clemson’s night.
The Tigers eventually cooled off a little in the second half and Pitt cut the lead down late, but it still didn’t matter. There was a sequence after the break where Pitt put together a run to get it under 20 and Clemson came down and, with no time left on the shot clock, threw up a wild three-pointer that banked in. Like I said, just their night. I’m not thrilled with the way Pitt played even in the slightest but what Clemson was doing tonight on offense at least tempered any anger that wanted to creep in. Only an elite team could have hung with the Tigers tonight and, well, Pitt ain’t that, folks.
The Panthers were without Au’Diese Toney, one of their key players who was out due to a hand injury. They also committed a bunch of early fouls in the second half, nearly putting Clemson into the bonus only about seven minutes in. Just a disaster from start to finish and even when they got a bit closer in the second half, the outcome was never in doubt.
There weren’t too many bright spots from Pitt’s vantage point. Xavier Johnson had a sensational game with 30 points, four rebounds, and a couple of steals. But the team was shorthanded and the rest of the team shot only 14-39 from the field, so his performance wasn’t nearly enough.
One thing I wanted to point out was a brief moment in the second half that would otherwise be of little consequence. Pitt was down by about 20 and clearly frustrated. There was a sequence where Jared Wilson-Frame brought the players together, sort of settled them down, then the team went back about their business. I was glad to see the announcers mention it as well as his leadership because it would have gone unnoticed by a lot of folks.
I have been one of many that’s gotten on Wilson-Frame for his inconsistency. But I also respect the job he’s out there trying to do in providing some leadership to a very young group. I’ve seen him do similar things on the court this year and, while it’s his job to some degree, I also want to respect him for at least doing it. A few games back, he had a miserable performance and, instead of ignoring it, took to Twitter to say that he would be better. That’s leadership, regardless of what you think about him as a player. We can debate his effectiveness and criticizing his actual play is more than fair. However, I commend him for also appearing to be somewhat of a stabilizing force when things break down, as they did tonight.
Pitt will move on next year without him and, I suspect, will be fine. But I also credit him for little things like that in a senior season that will largely be forgotten. This team will not play in the NCAA Tournament and that would be a bitter pill for a lot of seniors to swallow. But I credit Wilson-Frame for seemingly being a good leader for a team full of young players.
Next up is a home game against Syracuse Saturday.