Share This Page

Panthers insider: Late losses hurting Pitt's postseason resume

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 10:39 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Syracuse’s Jerami Grant (left) celebrates after Tyler Ennis defeated Pitt at the buzzer with a long 3-point shot Wednesday at Petersen Events Center. Syracuse, ranked No. 1 in the country, won, 58-56.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pitt's Josh Newkirk scores during the second half against Cal Poly on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.

Jim Boeheim pointed to “end-game situations” as the secret to Syracuse's success this season.

The Orange (24-0, 11-0 ACC) are undefeated, but have won eight games by single digits, four by five points or less and one by two in overtime.

“We probably should be about 20-4 or 19-5, but in the last three or four minutes we've been just about perfect in all those situations,” Boeheim said. “We've been down ... six or seven times this year, and we've been able to finish games.”

Boeheim pointed out that finishing with a flourish is the difference between being ranked No. 1 and No. 25.

Or, in other words, the difference between Syracuse and Pitt.

The Panthers are 20-5 (8-4 ACC), with their lone double-digit loss coming to Duke, 80-65, on Jan. 27.

Pitt's other four defeats are by a combined 11 points.

Coach Jamie Dixon lamented the defensive letdown of allowing Syracuse to outscore the Panthers, 10-2, in the final 1:40.

Syracuse freshman guard Tyler Ennis ended the game with a running 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 58-56 victory.

“There is always going to be room for improvement,” Dixon said. “They definitely had some guys who hit shots, but we need to find a way to defend better and not give up as many of those shots.”

It's a troubling trend for Pitt, which has lost three games in the final five seconds and another in the final minute. Despite defensive letdowns, the offense came up short:

•Pitt was 1 of 3 from the field (0 for 2 on 3-pointers) and 3 of 8 on free throws in the final 4:10 of a 44-43 loss to Cincinnati before Titus Rubles scored with 4.2 seconds left.

•Pitt was 0 for 6 from the field (three 3s) and 1 for 3 on free throws in blowing a three-point lead in the final 4:41 at Syracuse, a 59-54 loss Jan. 18.

•The Panthers were 0 for 5 from the field (one 3) and 1 of 2 on free throws before Malcolm Brogdon's 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds left lifted Virginia to a 48-45 victory Feb. 2.

•And the Panthers were 1 for 7 (four 3s) from the field but 2 for 2 on free throws against Syracuse on Wednesday.

The losses have prevented Pitt from getting a signature win on its resume, which lacks a victory over a nationally ranked team and includes one win over a team with a top-50 RPI (Stanford).

It could cost the Panthers come tourney time, as Syracuse was their last ranked regular-season opponent. Bracketologists Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports both have Pitt a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

If Pitt goes 4-2 in its final six, it will match last season's 24-7 record.

“The season isn't over,” senior swingman Lamar Patterson said. “We have more games ahead of us.”

The Panthers have to find a way to put the last-gasp losses behind them.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.