Pitt basketball team has little time to regroup

John Harris
| Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, 8:12 p.m.

Coach Jamie Dixon and junior forward Jamel Artis sat separately at a podium following Pitt's 64-50 loss to No. 9 Virginia, looking like a curtain had been pulled off the Panthers' season.

In their postgame analysis, Dixon and Artis revealed what the Panthers' impressive 15-1 start, featuring ACC wins at Notre Dame and Florida State, did not.

The Panthers, losers of three of their past five games, remain a work in progress.

“You are who you are,” Dixon said. “Right now, we're a team that's 14 points behind Virginia.

“We've got to get better. We've got to show improvement in two days.”

Pitt (17-5, 6-4) visits No. 17 Miami (18-4, 7-3) on Tuesday. The Panthers travel to No. 2 North Carolina five days later.

Dixon said he didn't believe the early hype about his team despite its gaudy record.

“I was concerned in November, and October and September,” Dixon said. “It's no secret to me. It comes out in losses, but it's evident in wins as well.”

It's also evident to Artis, the Panthers' second-leading scorer and rebounder, that the Panthers haven't reached their potential. To admit otherwise would be to place a ceiling on the season.

Artis said the Panthers are better than their recent performances, but they need to prove it.

“We've got to do it on the court on a daily basis,” Artis said. “We know how big these upcoming games are. We've got to hit the opponent in the head first.”

Asked to detail the Panthers' second-half collapse during a 12-0 Virginia run that sealed the outcome, Artis presented a litany of reasons.

“It was little stuff,” he said. “We didn't get a rebound. We tipped it. Or, they got it and got a second shot. Or, we turned the ball over and didn't get back on defense. They were getting in the lane, easy, and hitting 3s and we couldn't stop penetration.

“We've got to learn from our mistakes.”

Will they learn? Dixon is taking a wait-and-see attitude.

“We had time to get ready (for Virginia), but didn't get it done,” Dixon said about the five-day layoff between games. “When we got down, I don't think we handled it well. We practiced it. Talked about it: 'Don't get down in this situation,' and we did.

“The first two (3-pointers) they got is something we prepared for, talked about. The flares at the end of re-screens. We talked about it, drilled it, and they knocked them down.”

The top shooting team in the ACC, Virginia connected on 9 of 16 3-pointers for 56.3 percent.

The Panthers have two days to prepare for Miami.

“We've bounced back (before),” Dixon said. “We need to bounce back quickly.

“Who we are is what we do on Tuesday.”

John Harris is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jharris@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jharris_trib.

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