To say both teams sputtered out of the gates on Wednesday night might be an understatement. The Pittsburgh Panthers (15-10, 6-8) and the Clemson Tigers (12-12, 6-8) combined to shoot 3-15 from the floor going into the first media timeout which saw Pitt hold a slim 5-2 advantage. Things would pick up for one of those teams, however.
Clemson used a 7-0 run coming out of the media timeout to take the lead, and created more separation compliments of a 10-2 run powered by three, three-pointers, all by different players. In what has become rather common, Pitt was able to string enough defensive stands together to eventually find some offense. A 9-1 run punctuated by a dunk by junior forward Terrell Brown brought them within a possession of Clemson, 23-25, and forced them to take a timeout with just 4:46 remaining in the half.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, they would only score one more point before halftime. The Tigers were able to grind out seven more points to take a 32-24 lead into the half. A big part of that was the zone defense they were facing.
“It’s not like a zone that we’ve really seen,” said freshman forward Justin Champagnie on their struggles against the zone. He described Clemson’s zone as more of a matchup zone.
In a game of runs, the Tigers 16-5 run to open the second half threatened to be the nail in the coffin for Pitt. A 12-0 run by the Panthers brought them within seven at the 7:18 mark, but they didn’t have the legs to keep that going. Clemson pulled away and ended up with a 20-point victory, 72-52.
Pitt was led by freshman forward Justin Champagnie’s 11 points. Sophomore forward Au’Diese Toney was the only other Panther to reach double-digits with 10 points.
“We were just bad across the board,” was what head coach Jeff Capel had to say after the game.
Freshman guard Al-Amir Dawes led the Tigers with 18 points, and he was 4-7 from beyond the arc.
This loss really hurts Pitt as they were trying to create the tiniest bit of separation from the middle of the pack in the ACC.
Panthers will have a hard time trying to rebound at the Virginia Tech Hokies (14-10, 5-8) on Saturday.