Starkey: Pitt's lame offense to blame
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Yes, it took a miraculous 35-footer to beat Pitt on Wednesday night, but the truth of the matter is that Syracuse had a chance only because Pitt's offense went lame in the final minutes.
One desperation field goal and six points in the final five minutes? Blame that more than anything.
“At the beginning of the game, we were letting them in the lane, and they were getting easy baskets,” said Syracuse forward Jerami Grant. “But toward the end, I felt like they really didn't know what was happening. They didn't have any easy looks.”
There will be talk of Jamie Dixon calling timeout with 4.4 seconds left to allow still-unbeaten Syracuse time to set up, but what did Syracuse set up? Tyler Ennis won the game 58-56 with an off-balance buzzer-beater on a burst of individual brilliance.
Dixon said he called timeout after Talib Zanna's free throws in order to make Syracuse in-bound the ball deeper. It worked, as far as that went. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim admitted his team wanted to make a long pass and ran “the wrong play.” That news didn't surprise Dixon, who figured Boeheim didn't draw up Ennis firing from 35 over two defenders.
“If (Boeheim did draw that up), that's why he has 900 wins, I guess,” Dixon said.
Pitt came into the game leading the ACC in field-goal percentage (conference games only) at 45.2 percent but shot just 18 of 50, or 36 percent. Dixon claimed his team kept attacking late, but it sure didn't look that way. Not from here and obviously not from Boeheim's seat.
“That's the way they chose to play,” Boeheim said of Pitt's kill-the-clock offense. “Duke took a shot (against Syracuse) every 15 seconds, maybe 14 seconds. … I think (Pitt) could get a shot quicker, but that's the way they played that.”
Several late possessions devolved into Pitt passing around the perimeter until the crowd started chanting down the final 10 seconds of the shot clock. Pitt then settled mostly for horrible shots.
Ennis' shot might have been part luck. So was Pitt's final field goal: Zanna's tip-in of an off-balance Lamar Patterson airball with about 1:40 left. That one gave Pitt a 54-48 lead it proceeded to squander with a few more failed possessions. It did get a decent shot with 11 seconds left when Patterson attacked baseline. But he missed a short jumper, and Pitt barely missed two tip attempts.
The Panthers won the battle of the boards 35-24 but committed eight second-half turnovers. Zanna had a terrific game with 16 points, 14 rebounds and those two clutch foul shots.
This was a monster effort, to be sure, against the No. 1 team in the country in front of the second-largest crowd (12,935) ever at the Pete. But Pitt still doesn't have a high-quality win and won't get another chance to secure one until the ACC Tournament begins next month. If they fail to stick around there, they might have to wait until the NCAA Tournament, assuming they get there.
Meanwhile, after beating Boeheim like a drum for seven years, Dixon now has lost three in a row and four of five to him. And Pitt has lost a bit of its home-court mystique.
Petersen Events Center remains a wonderful venue, of course, and the place was hopping for Syracuse just as it was for Duke. More than that, actually. This was the best crowd of the season. But it's fair to say teams aren't intimidated anymore.
Certainly the ACC doesn't seem deterred. Duke won here easily. Virginia won late. Virginia Tech nearly pulled an upset, and Syracuse, which had lost five of six and five in a row to Dixon-coached teams at the Pete, looked right at home.
Once upon a time, Pitt literally was unbeatable here. It opened the Pete with 34 consecutive wins. It ripped off 40 in a row from 2002-04, a streak that lasted two years and 68 days.
Now look: In a span of 17 days, Pitt has lost three home games and very nearly a fourth to a horrific Virginia Tech team. Two of those came on soul-crushing last-second shots.
Mystique? There must be some mistake.
The mistake Wednesday night was pulling up too soon.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
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.
- EDMC to close quarter of its Art Institutes campuses
- NFL finds Patriots employees probably deflated balls
- Steelers’ fourth-round pick Grant relies on smarts to get job done
- City Council favors security training bill, building owners threaten lawsuit
- Ligonier Township mourns K-9 officer killed in wrong-way crash
- Pitt’s Newkirk out 4-6 months after knee surgery
- Bus drivers strike deal with company that transports North Hills, Shaler students
- Highmark to pay disputed claims filed by rival UPMC
- Rossi: Not too early to go with Kang
- Uber, Pennsylvania regulators debate proposed $19 million fine in Pittsburgh
- Penn-Trafford School Board challenger dies, 2 incumbents remain