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Pitt falls to Miami, 66-58

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Miami-Florida Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Pitt made things interesting a few times during their Sunday night game against the Miami Hurricanes. But they didn’t have enough, ultimately losing 66-58.

Twice, Pitt (11-5) had to fight back from big leads, which is admirable. They trailed Miami (10-5) by as much as 16 points in the first half before coming back to tie it up. But they couldn’t keep things going and went into the half down by nine.

They fell behind by at least 16 again in the second half and, again, fought back, cutting things to as little as four points several times. But they could never get over the hump and that was that.

Much of that was made capable because Pitt brought a lot of defensive pressure during that stretch, forcing Miami into some mistakes inbounding and bringing the ball up the court. Head coach Jeff Capel has been criticized by some for his on-court decisions but that seemed like a great call and, frankly, is probably something Pitt needs to continue to explore. The difficulty, of course, is wearing out a team that is already thin and can hardly afford guys getting into foul trouble or just having guys running out of gas.

Pitt really seemed a bit lost out there late in the game. Trailing by seven with a little under a minute left, Pitt waited about 20 seconds to commit a foul when they needed to do that much earlier to have any chance to win. I hardly think it would have mattered but that kind of thing at this level is just sort of a head-scratcher. You’ve got to know the situation and the Panthers clearly didn’t there.

Just another pretty inconsistent and streaky effort offensively. The offense disappeared for long stretches and when you have to fight back from two really big leads like that, it makes it difficult to have much left in the tank to actually go out and win the game. It was another poor night offensively with the team shooting 36% from the field while only connecting on 3-16 shots from three-point range. That they got things as close as they did late is even kind of remarkable, to be honest, given that Miami shot over 50% from the field themselves.

You’ve obviously got to shoot the ball better and it sounds like a broken record at this point. But that’s the reality of this team. They have too many games where the offense just doesn’t do enough. And despite some good defensive play, at the end of the day, you’ve still got to score points. 3-16 from the field for Justin Champagnie. 4-12 from Ryan Murphy. Just not going to cut it. Trey McGowens led Pitt with 18 points but even he was only 6-16 from the field. Just way too many bricks.

One notable thing is that head coach Jeff Capel sat Xavier Johnson with about 15 minutes left in the second half for the rest of the game. You never know if those sorts of things are injury-related but it didn’t appear to be and it’s worth noting that he didn’t play well at all, shooting 1-5 from the field and adding four turnovers up to that point.

The Johnson dynamic has been an interesting one to follow all year long. He got off to a really slow start and turned things around a bit with some solid performances. But overall, his sophomore year has definitely been a pretty disappointing one and Pitt surely hoped to get more out of him by now after a really strong freshman year. Will be interesting to hear what Capel has to say after the game regarding one of his better players.

Next up for Pitt is a home game Tuesday night against Louisville.

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