Pitt squanders 15-point lead to Boston College; losing skid hits 14
Pitt coach Kevin Stallings understands his players are young, inexperienced and — perhaps most discouraging — not prepared to adequately handle the physical nature of major-college basketball.
But his understanding of those inadequacies, exposed more decisively than ever Tuesday night in an 81-58 loss to Boston College at Petersen Events Center, doesn't ease his frustration.
So many aspects of Pitt's 14-game losing streak — a school record that keeps growing with every defeat — bothered Stallings.
• His team committed 20 turnovers, a season high for an ACC game.
• Pitt (8-19, 0-14) was ahead by 15 points with 7 minutes, 17 seconds left in the first half but then ran into two scoring droughts totaling more than 10 minutes. Outscored 68-30 the rest of the way, they ended the game with walk-ons on the court and most of the crowd of 2,835 already in their cars and headed home.
• But what might have bothered the veteran coach more than anything was, perhaps, the most amazing statistic of the season. Pitt played nearly 35 minutes without grabbing an offensive rebound. The Panthers finished with two, and Stallings identified both for reporters.
"One was a perimeter player (Jared Wilson-Frame), and the ball bounced to him, and the other they knocked it out of bounds and we got it," he said.
"At some point our frontcourt guys should be getting an offensive rebound. You shouldn't be playing 20 or 30 minutes and not get an offensive rebound. You shouldn't. That's on me. I have to do more in practice to get them there.
"We don't play with the kind of physicality that you need to play with. I do get that we're freshmen, and I do get we're not as strong in some cases and not as athletic in some cases.
"But we don't embrace the physical nature of the game like you have to in this league, yet."
After the first few minutes of the second half that started with Pitt holding a two-point lead, the Panthers never were in the game. The defense failed again, allowing Boston College (16-10, 6-7) to shoot 61.3 percent (19 of 31) after halftime and break its 23-game ACC road losing streak with ease.
Boston College's Jordan Robinson had a game-high 27 points, scoring 25 after halftime.
Although the team has played 27 games since November, Pitt had no concept of guarding the high post in the second half. The problem may have been as simple as the players were too far from the bench, Stallings said.
"Coach was over there saying, 'High post, high post,' " freshman Parker Stewart said. "We kept letting them get the ball to the high post.
"That guy was either hitting the shot at the free-throw line or somebody would cut."
Said Stallings: "The defense is in front of you in the first half, and you can make guys aware of where the cutters are coming from. They get to the other end and they have to talk to each other, and we're not very good at that yet."
Stallings and his players have yet to solve the problem of finding a leader when the game is going horribly wrong. Senior Ryan Luther's season-ending foot injury that occurred more than two months ago continues to haunt them.
"In their defense," Stallings said, "I go back to the second half when we played West Virginia and we're down big in the second half and we come roaring back (to lose a close game). But they had Ryan Luther. Ryan led them and was an escape for them."
Stewart, who led Pitt with 16 points and was the only starter to score in the second half, said the players' energy waned at some point after grabbing its 15-point lead.
"It seems like when we're getting shots and everybody is playing for each other, that's when we have a high as a team," he said.
"When the opposite is happening, people aren't hitting shots, we're not getting the ball side to side, that's when I think the energy just isn't high. That can't happen. We have to keep playing as hard as we can no matter what is happening on the floor."
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.