Sleepy. Uninspired. Lazy.
Use whatever word you like. A Tuesday night game with a late start featuring two bad teams is hardly an attraction. But, hey, it’s still a Pitt basketball game.
The Panthers (12-15) faced Georgia Tech (12-15) and the first half went badly. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Pitt got off to a dismal start, fought back, and ultimately fell short at the end, losing 73-65 to the Yellow Jackets.
In the gamethread, I mentioned that the game had an eerily similar feel to many of Pitt’s other contests. The screenplay typically unfolds with the team starting off terribly, clawing back, and then falling short. And, well, that’s exactly what happened yet again.
Pitt sleepwalked through the first half, scoring only 27 points on yet another horrendous shooting performance. The offense is so comically bad on occasion that it barely warrants press at this point. And 27 games into the season, folks, I got nothing of substance to add. The Panthers shot 33% from the field tonight and that, sadly, is hardly an outlier for the season. Pitt was also again troubled at the foul line. The positive is they got there 38 times. The negative was they made only 20 of those attempts.
Get to the line 38 times. Only turn the ball over eight times. Those are just games you should win.
So, back to that first half. How bad was it?
Nearly six minutes in, Pitt had only four points.
Ten minutes in, they had seven points.
12 minutes in ... they still had seven points.
Pitt rallied to score a bunch towards the end of the half, though, and that got them to the not-quite-as-embarrassing plateau of 27. Trailing by seven at the break, the team heated up in the second half. Pitt closed to within two at the 12:41 minute mark and one at 7:57, but could never get quite over the hump.
I mentioned this before but my frustration for wanting to see Pitt win has turned into general empathy for these guys. They’ve come close so many times this year only to fall just short at the end. The record at the end of the season will not be a good one, whether you feel expectations were met or not. But when you look at the entirety of the year, there was a chance to do so much more.
One-point loss to Iowa. One-point loss to Niagara. Two-point loss to Wake Forest. Two losses by a combined nine points to NC State. I mean, this just seems like overkill at this point. And even some games that weren’t as close at the end, like the one tonight where Pitt was within a single point in the second half, were there for the taking, too. These guys have been close and, as bad as things are, are realistically a handful of buckets away from having a legit chance to finish .500 this year.
I don’t necessarily think that winning 15-16 games as opposed to 12-13 would make all the difference in the world to these guys. But you have to wonder if falling so short so many times in the midst of what is now a ten-game losing streak is adding to the pressure that this young team already has. Losing ten games in a row, no matter how low the expectations, cannot be an easy thing to stomach.
I’ve made this point repeatedly but Pitt has to find a way to get off to better starts. At one point they were down 25-8 and if you’re down 17 points to one of the worst teams in the conference that early in the game, you might as well pack up and go home. Come on, that’s just not good basketball. Pitt proved that you can indeed come back from such deficits. But, as I’ve said on more than one occasion, the effort expended to get there makes fully catching up and then taking and holding a lead nearly impossible.
Four games left in the regular season with one at home against Clemson next Wednesday. Hopefully the week-long break will give these guys a chance to clear their heads a bit.