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Pitt to lean on freshman vs. Towson, rest of season

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017, 7:09 p.m.
Pitt's Marcus Carr hits a three point shot against Delaware State in the first half Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Marcus Carr hits a three point shot against Delaware State in the first half Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.
Delaware State's Joaquin Wiley fouls Pitt's Jared Wilson-Frame in the second half Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Delaware State's Joaquin Wiley fouls Pitt's Jared Wilson-Frame in the second half Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt's Terrell Brown scores over Delaware State's Kavon Waller and Simon Okolue in the second half Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Terrell Brown scores over Delaware State's Kavon Waller and Simon Okolue in the second half Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 at Petersen Events Center.

In the all-time history of Pitt basketball dating from 1905 through Dec. 15, 2017, the Panthers never placed four freshmen in their starting lineup.

Now, they've done it twice in the past two games. And when Pitt meets Towson on Friday night at Petersen Events Center in the final non-ACC game of the season, freshmen Marcus Carr, Khameron Davis, Shamiel Stevenson and Terrell Brown might be starting together for a third consecutive time.

If coach Kevin Stallings decides to shake up the lineup that helped lose most of a 37-10 lead Tuesday night against Delaware State, three of the top reserves are freshmen.

“We are learning a lot on the go,” Davis said. “So we aren't going to handle it the best at times. But we are trying to get better.”

The lesson learned in the 74-68 victory against Delaware State is no lead is safe, and Pitt isn't good enough to lose “focus and energy” and expect to win. Pitt survived, but Stallings didn't like the process.

“It's nice to have a lead and blitz a team in the first half,” he said. “And if we're lucky to have it again, maybe we will do a better job the next time.”

That's been the mindset throughout the nonconference schedule: Keep improving, even while taking small strides, and hope to win some games during the journey. Pitt (7-5) has won six of seven — and played well in the second half of the loss to No. 10 West Virginia — but that was against a weak schedule. If Pitt loses to Towson, it will mark the first time since 1997-98 that it won fewer than eight nonconference games.

Towson is the first game of five in a row against teams getting votes in the Associated Press top 25 poll. After playing Towson, Pitt is off for seven days before opening its ACC schedule against No. 6 Miami on Dec. 30 at the Pete.

With senior forward Ryan Luther lost for at least another week because of a foot injury, figure on freshmen playing a big role now and for the rest of the season — even after Luther returns.

Of the nine players who have been on the court most often, five are freshmen, led by Carr (341 minutes, second on the team). The others are Stevenson (313), Davis (261), Parker Stewart (217) and Brown (100).

Carr has the single-game scoring and assists highs (23 points against Mount St. Mary's and 10 assists against Oklahoma State). He is third overall in scoring, averaging 12.2 per game, and Stevenson is fourth (10.2).

Carr also has chief ball-handling responsibilities, which have led to his 33 turnovers (almost three per game).

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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