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Pitt outclassed by Monmouth in 56-52 loss at the Pete

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John Hugley, Jamarius Burton and Femi Odukale performed well but got little help from their supporting cast in the loss

NCAA Basketball: Monmouth-NJ at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After a surprising three-game run in which Pitt held its own against Minnesota and Virginia and defeated Colgate, the team slipped into its old struggles when it faced Monmouth at the Petersen Events Center on Sunday. And as a result, the Panthers fell to the Hawks 56-52.

Monmouth got off to a strong start, as George Papas knocked down two threes in a span of 30 seconds to give the Hawks an early 6-2 lead, and four minutes into the game, the visitors would be up 9-2. The Panthers simply had no answers for the Hawks, as their sloppy play offered them opportunity after opportunity, and King Rice’s squad continually cashed in. And as a result, Monmouth held a comfortable 17-6 lead by the midway point of the first half.

The Hawks would continue to pull away, and they would be aided by a hapless Panthers offense that was unable to convert on a field goal for 13 minutes and 44 seconds. John Hugley would be the one to break that streak, making a layup with five minutes and 28 seconds left to play in the opening half. That bucket would also get Pitt into double figures for the first time, making the score 21-11. And from there, the Panthers would add eight points and limp into the half down 36-19.

The second half would see both sides get off to a sluggish start, and after seven minutes, Pitt had only shaved one point off of Monmouth’s halftime lead, with the score at 46-30. However, around the midway point of the second half, the Panthers would begin to show signs of life. Jamarius Burton would lead the charge with a layup and a jumper to make it 46-35, and moments later, Hugley would make two free throws to cut Monmouth’s lead to nine.

Despite that spurt of scoring from the Panthers, the Hawks would keep them at arm’s length for several minutes. But when Monmouth began to stagnate late in the game, Pitt took advantage, pulling within eight points on a Femi Odukale layup. That would make the score 53-45, with just under four minutes left to play, and a three-pointer by Burton on Pitt’s next possession would narrow the deficit to five points. The teams would be separated by the same amount with one minute and 24 seconds left to play, setting up yet another tense finish for the Panthers.

A made jumper by Burton would make it a three-point game with 28 seconds remaining. However, Monmouth would succeed in running out the clock, and the Hawks would seal the result with a free throw by Papas to make it 56-52, dealing Pitt another close loss.

Once again, Hugley was a standout performer for Pitt, as he finished the game with a 14-point, 13-rebound double-double. His scoring output was matched by Odukale, who came up with 14 points of his own off the bench. However, it was Burton who led the team in points, as he had 15 on the night and was the only player who could get much of anything going from the field, as he converted on seven of his 12 field-goal attempts. With that said, the other seven Pitt players who logged minutes in the game combined for seven points.

With the result in the books, the Panthers now sit at 3-7 on the season, with their only wins coming against UNC Wilmington, Towson and Colgate. Up to this point, the team has not been up to the challenge of competing at the high-major level, as it has racked up losses against West Virginia, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, and Virginia. And that seems likely to pose an issue when Pitt heads to Madison Square Garden to face St. John’s on Saturday.