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Pitt notebook: Panthers look for 1st ACC win against improving Boston College

Jerry DiPaola
| Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, 11:18 p.m.
Boston College coach Jim Christian's Eagles will bring a 15-10 record (5-7 ACC) into their game with Pitt.
Boston College coach Jim Christian's Eagles will bring a 15-10 record (5-7 ACC) into their game with Pitt.

Over the past two seasons, Boston College was in a place where Pitt appears to be headed this year.

The Eagles were winless in 18 ACC games in 2016, 7-25 overall. A year ago, the situation barely improved — 2-16 in the conference, 9-23 overall.

This year? Boston College will bring a 15-10 record (5-7 ACC) into Petersen Events Center on Tuesday night to meet the

struggling Panthers (8-18, 0-13). The Eagles are coming off a 72-70 victory against then-No. 25 Miami on Saturday. It also defeated then-No. 1 (now No. 12) Duke on Dec. 9, 89-84.

The constant over the past four seasons? Jim Christian is still the coach.

“What they had was young talent that was really inexperienced, and now that talent is starting to grow up a little bit,” said Pitt coach Kevin Stallings, who defeated Boston College last season, 83-72.

“They've done a great job of evaluating guys and developing them. Those guys are getting much, much better.

“You could see it coming. You could see they had talent and it was very, very young and it was going to require some patience.”

Speaking of patience, Stallings said that's just one of the elements his team needs at the moment.

“It was obvious, when I took the job, that year two had a chance to be a tough year and it's been even tougher than we anticipated. We've had to start over to some degree. When you do that, it doesn't require patience, but it requires patience if you're realistic about it.

“It requires patience of me, patience of my players and certainly those people around the program and our fans.

“It's never built overnight. You just try to make good, long-term decisions and recruit the right kind of guys.”

Speaking on the ACC coaches conference call Monday, Stallings said the team has a chance to be “significantly better next year and, hopefully, even better than that the year after that.”

Stallings tempers those expectations with this reality: “This is a great league.”

“I can certainly tell you our best player (Ryan Luther) is not playing,” he said. “He'll be back next year. One of our best players, maybe our other best player, Malik Ellison (a 6-foot-6 guard), is sitting out because of transfer rules.

“You have two guys you know are going to be impactful.”

Stallings on Cam

Stallings was asked what North Carolina's Cam Johnson is doing differently this season after transferring from Pitt where he spent the previous three seasons.

Stallings said what Johnson is doing for the Tar Heels isn't different or better than what he did at Pitt.

“He's playing aggressively,” he said. “In our game (a 96-65 North Carolina victory), he made some really good hustle plays and has seemingly rebounded the ball well for them.

“He's just given them an extra experienced scoring option and a guy who plays hard and gets on the floor after loose balls.”

Asked how different Pitt would be with Johnson, Stallings said, “It doesn't do us any good to say, ‘What if.' We have what we have and we've had some tough breaks along the way. We're just going to continue to do the best we can.”

Johnson started and scored 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting for No. 14 North Carolina on Monday night in an 83-66 victory against Notre Dame.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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