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Pitt loses fifth straight with 65-56 loss to Syracuse

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NCAA Basketball: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Well, at the least the uniforms looked great.

Pitt’s losing streak hit five today as the team lost to Syracuse, 65-56. The Panthers had retro uniforms on and what seemed to be a nice crowd at the Pete but it wasn’t enough as Pitt lost its fifth straight game..

The team’s biggest problem was another slow start offensively. The Panthers played much better in the second half but were completely outclassed in the first. You can’t win games like that.

Pitt (12-10) scored only 22 points at the half finding themselves on the wrong end of a 13-point gap. Interestingly, Syracuse (16-6) hadn’t even gotten any points from their leading scorer, Tyus Battle, and still managed to build up a double-digit lead. If you had told me the Panthers would hold Battle scoreless in the first half, if nothing else, I would have felt pretty good about their chances in the first 20 minutes.

To Pitt’s credit, they did fight back. Pitt was, at one point, on a 9-0 run in the second half and cut the lead down to three. But as you hear so often, when you have to fight back from a double-digit deficit like they did, it just takes a lot out of you. Not only that but the other team won’t stay down forever. It’s difficult to make those types of comebacks and then have enough to take the lead and ultimately hold onto it.

As has been discussed here to great length recently was Pitt’s inability to break down a zone. While the act of cracking a zone might not be easy, the basis of defeating one is pretty simple, really. You either need to be able to shoot well from the outside or successfully show enough movement and penetration to get defensive players out of position and capitalize on easier shots. Pitt didn’t do much of either. Terrell Brown was effective at times (16 points) and Jared Wilson-Frame helped keep things from getting completely out of hand in the first half with some three-pointers. But the team didn’t do nearly enough to keep pace with Syracuse in the first half.

I’m content with this season in knowing that the Panthers need more talent and experience and I understand games like these will be hard. But I was surprised to see the team so stagnant on offense much of the time. Players standing around far too often. Even the occasional cutting players didn’t seem to serve any real purpose.

Pitt was able to utilize Terrell Brown on the baseline and he was effective, sometimes capitalizing there or sometimes his movement aided the team in other ways so that someone else could get a decent shot. But that type of offensive success was the exception and not the rule. You don’t want players haphazardly running all over the place with no direction but you need to do more than what Pitt did to disrupt a zone — especially if you’re not just going to sit back and have sharpshooters knocking down jumpers and threes.

It’s just another case of Pitt not being quite good enough. It’s something we’ve seen earlier this year and are bound to see more of. Not the end of the world and, at 16-6, Syracuse is a pretty decent team. But these types of games just sort of prove that Pitt still has a lot of work to do. The Panthers have some pieces and, like today, can be somewhat competitive against decent teams. But it takes a lot of work to put together a complete game and that’s not something the team has been able to do much lately.

Next up is a road game at Wake Forest on Tuesday.

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