Pitt started off fine but eventually ran out of gas and lost to No. 1 Louisville on Friday, 64-46.
If you’re a Pitt fan, honestly, I don’t know that you can be too upset here. You don’t expect to win the game and while you want it to be closer, as long as you don’t embarrass yourself here like that 50-point loss a few years back, well, win. The lack of offense obviously caught up with them but, defensively, they mostly did okay.
Now, that doesn’t sound that great. But my takeaway may be different from that of others.
Here’s the thing. Offensively, we know Pitt has major limitations. That they scored only 46 points is disappointing but not entirely shocking. Frankly, I expect we’ll see a few other similar types of outputs from them this year. This is a team with a few guys that can score but you’re mostly left wondering each time out who’s going to be ‘the guy’ tonight.
Offensively, Xavier Johnson continues to heat up a bit. The problem is that Ryan Murphy, who had been so hot, is really cooling off. X had 15 points tonight but Murphy was held to five on 2-10 shooting. Murphy hasn’t cooled off completely, he’s just a bit inconsistent these days. It’s hardly just him, I just use him as the example as he was really the star early on. If Pitt could somehow get both of them going consistently, mixed in with more productive outputs from others, they might have something.
Take Trey McGowens. Four points tonight, three against Kansas State, and zero against Arkansas Pine-Bluff. In between, he had 15 against Northwestern and 16 against Rutgers. You literally have no idea what you are getting any given night.
So what am I encouraged by? I spoke previously about the defense the Panthers had been playing coming into this game, ranking as one of the better statistical defenses in the nation. But while they had done well there, I think we could say that there were still questions about how legit that was. Tonight, they didn’t defend the three-point line as well as they needed to. But overall, a lot of good things. 64 points allowed and they forced 13 turnovers, one more than what they had themselves.
If we can take anything away here, it’s that the defense could legitimately be for real. Now, I don’t suspect that will be enough against the elite ACC teams unless they have abundantly off nights shooting. But I think it could be enough for the team to compete against others in the conference. We saw it against Florida State in the opener and while that was the first game of the year where you expect offenses to be rusty, I can see that defense at least keeping them in some games that folks might not expect them to be all that close in.
Let’s not get carried away here. Losing by 18 to anyone isn’t ideal. And I’m not trying to sell you on the idea of tonight’s game being acceptable. It is not. But I do think there are some takeaways here that maybe you look at and make the result a bit more manageable.
Thus far, we know Pitt is not an elite team. But after that, it’s sort of an open book. Long way to go.