Pitt goes quietly in lopsided loss to Louisville
After another embarrassing defeat — this time 94-60 to unranked Louisville — Pitt coach Kevin Stallings (as he usually does) was as honest as he could be when discussing his troubled team.
“We're just not as good as that team we just played,” he said after Pitt stretched its school-record losing streak to 13 in front of a Petersen Events Center crowd of 4,772. “Not as good as most of the teams that we've played.
“I don't think our guys are not getting better. I don't think our guys aren't playing hard. I think we have some obvious weaknesses, and those weaknesses are getting exposed a little bit.”
Then, there's this observation from the coach, perhaps the remark that was most difficult for him to make publicly:
“Some of those things presently, we can't do a whole lot about.”
Pitt (8-18, 0-13 ACC) was overwhelmed for the third consecutive game, even though Louisville was playing without injured leading scorer Deng Adel. Since close losses at home to N.C. State and Syracuse, Pitt has lost by margins of 12 (Miami), 31 (North Carolina), 24 (Clemson) and 34 (Louisville).
“The problem today was we just couldn't guard them,” Stallings said.
Center Terrell Brown, a 6-foot-10 freshman who had been improving his scoring touch with 33 points in the previous two games, couldn't handle Louisville's big men. He missed all seven of his field-goal attempts — two from beyond the 3-point arc — while Cardinals big men Ray Spalding, Anas Mahmoud and Malik Williams combined to hit 14 of 21 shots, grab 15 rebounds and total 36 points to help Louisville improve to 18-8, 8-5 in the ACC.
“It wasn't lack of effort,” said Stallings, repeating an insistence he has made after almost every game this season. “They just were bigger, faster, better at every turn than we were.
“Their length and size is among the best in the league, if not the best in the league. We knew it could be tough for (Brown). We tried to get him in some mismatches to no avail, really.”
Stallings said his job is to help maintain his players' hope as much as their confidence. He didn't say so, but that appears to be getting just as difficult as what the players are trying to accomplish on the court.
“Thursday night (in the 72-48 loss to Clemson), I didn't feel like we played with much of an edge,” he said. “We played much harder (Sunday), which doesn't make me feel any better from the standpoint we still got our butts handed to us.
“This is a tough process we're going through to try and figure out how to become a better team and better players and how to win.”
The game started well for Pitt. Parker Stewart hit two 3-pointers, and Marcus Carr added another as the Panthers took an 11-7 lead at the 15:34 mark of the first half.
From that point until halftime, however, Pitt was outscored, 39-9, and trailed, 46-20 at the break.
Pitt improved its shot-making in the second half, but in the end three starters — Brown, Kene Chukwuka and Khameron Davis — combined to score five points for the game. After Pitt hit three of its first four 3-point tries, it missed 22 of its next 26.
Shamiel Stevenson and Jared Wilson-Frame came off the bench to score 15 and 11 points, respectively, while Stewart finished with 12.
Stewart said the team is starting to get discouraged while trying not to lose hope.
“Everybody's — I wouldn't say sad — but discouraged, I guess,” he said. “People might not think we have a chance, but we're still going to go out there and play.
“I saw improvement before. I don't think (Sunday) we made much improvement from the last game. When you lose that bad, you probably haven't improved a whole lot.
“A loss is a loss, but when you lose like that at home it's embarrassing.”