Pitt unable to match Miami's athleticism in ACC opener
Circumstances beyond Pitt coach Kevin Stallings' control came together Saturday to lift Miami to an easy 67-53 victory at Petersen Events Center.
He can't make his players faster, taller or quicker, which might have prevented some of those 19 Pitt turnovers or eight Miami blocks.
And as much as Stallings would love to lay his hands upon Ryan Luther's injured right foot, make the pain go away and get him back in the lineup, his powers in the realm of miracles are severely limited.
OK, Stallings did admit he might have been able to prevent point guard Marcus Carr's third foul if he had acted quicker and moved him away from Miami's ball screens in the first half.
In the end, Stallings left the Pete on Saturday night aware he somehow needs to find more offense for the Panthers (8-6, 0-1), who opened ACC play with their lowest scoring output of the season.
"I told them I have to figure out something to help them offensively," he said. "There are too many possessions where it feels like it's a trip to the dentist."
Pitt's young, reconstructed roster received a rude welcome into the ACC, and the situation might not improve Tuesday at Louisville. He said Luther's return for that game is "doubtful."
What was strange Saturday was that for a long time in the first half, the matchup with No. 15 Miami (12-1, 1-0) didn't look impossible for Pitt.
There was even a bit of a buzz from the 5,307 at the Pete when Shamiel Stevenson's slick move inside the crowded paint led to a basket (two of his game-high 16 points) and an 18-17 Pitt lead with 7 minutes, 35 seconds left before intermission.
But that was Pitt's last two-point basket for the next 11:42 spilling into the second half when Miami seized control of the game.
With 3:44 left in the first half, Carr was forced to leave with three fouls, a one-point Miami lead turned into 11 by halftime (30-19) and Pitt never threatened the Hurricanes after that.
"That's when they blitzed us a little bit," Stallings said. "(Scoring) was made a lot worse without Marcus in the game. He's the facilitator of our offense without Ryan in the game. We just didn't have enough answers."
Against a significantly more athletic and experienced team, Pitt had no room for error, something that could become a theme going forward in the ACC.
Junior Jared Wilson-Frame, the only Pitt starter Saturday who isn't a freshman, took notice.
"When you play against a team that is that athletic, as most of the ACC teams are, and you're not the biggest, tallest team or the highest-jumping team, you have to stick to your principles," he said. "You have to locate (the ball) and box out every time. One slip-up and it's a put-back dunk or a second-chance kick out for a 3.
"We're not going to outjump anybody, especially in this league."
Not only did Miami's guards set the pace by repeatedly attacking the rim and shooting 53.1 percent in the second half, but the Hurricanes also outrebounded Pitt, 31-23, for the game.
"We can be a good rebounding team," Stevenson said. "We let them out-tough us."
Miami is second in scoring defense among ACC teams (an average of 59 points allowed before Saturday), and Pitt had a difficult time getting clean looks at the basket. The result was a 25 percent (4 of 16) effort from the 3-point line.
"They wear you down with their physicality and athleticism," Stallings said. "Plus, they play hard."
What this thorough beating means for the rest of the season is unclear because Pitt is challenged athletically, but the players are "fighters," according to their coach.
"I was just going out there and putting my heart on the floor and see what the result is," Stevenson said. "It was challenging, but personally I'm ready for anything."
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.