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Pitt falls to West Virginia 68-53

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Panthers’ shooting falls off cliff in second half

NCAA Basketball: West Virginia at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

With 25 seconds left in the first half of last night’s non-conference game between former Big East Rivals, Pitt had the ball with a chance to take the lead. They had not played particularly well so far, but still found themselves in a close game. Sophomore guard Trey McGowens, who had already hit several deep shots earlier in the half, dribbled out the clock and let fly a shot at the buzzer. It clanged off the rim and that was the end of Pitt’s competitiveness the rest of the night.

Pitt opened the second half with a four minute scoring drought before a pair of Justin Champagnie free throws just after the first media timeout. Another similarly drought occurred immediately after before a Champagnie dunk. The Mountaineers built up a double digit lead and never looked back. By the end of it, the cheers of the visiting fans echoed through the stadium as the home team fans left in disgust.

“I thought the game was lost in the first three minutes of the second half,” said coach Jeff Capel...We had several great looks at the basket and didn’t get anything out of it.” Pitt just could not get anything going against the size of the Mountaineers. When asked about the difficulty about getting inside against their size, Justin Champagnie responded, “It’s easy to get inside, the hard part is finishing.” The box score reveals only five blocks from West Virginia, including three by game-high scorer Oscar Tshiebwe (20 points 17 rebounds), but countless others were altered inside.

For Pitt, McGowens led the team with 13 points, with Champagnie adding 12 and Ryan Murphy 11. No other Panther finished in double figures. The Mountaineers, in particular, did a great job of limiting shooting opportunities for Murphy. “They did a great job on ball screen defense,” said Murphy after the game.

In short, Pitt is not going to beat anyone in Division 1 if they shoot 3-25 in the second half. Not even making as many free throws (19) as the Mountaineers attempted was enough to offset such dismal shooting. They’ll have a few days to think about it before their next game Monday against Monmouth. I’ll be taking a deeper dive into this game this weekend, including handing out some individual grades and talking more about Pitt’s offensive plan.

Hail to Pitt,
Jordan