Cold-shooting Pitt drops 17th in a row with lopsided loss to No. 1 Virginia
Pitt found a new way to frustrate its coach Saturday in a 66-37 loss to No. 1 Virginia.
Which, considering how this season has unfolded, sounds like an almost impossible task.
"I thought we were a little intimidated in the first half," coach Kevin Stallings said. "Which surprised me because we have not shown that so much.
"I mean, we have been beaten soundly a few times, but I haven't felt like we were necessarily intimidated."
Everyone knew Virginia's famously sturdy defense would give the offensively challenged Panthers trouble. No one expected Pitt (8-22, 0-17) to win the game, or even keep it close.
But Pitt scored seven points in the first half, the fewest total this season in any of the three levels of college basketball, an NCAA official confirmed. One field goal — a 3-pointer by Jared Wilson-Frame 10 minutes into the game — tied a record for fewest in the shot-clock era. Pitt, which has lost 17 in a row, went 1 for 22 from the field in the first half, and finished with its third lowest point total since 1954-55.
Virginia (26-2, 15-1) led 30-7 at the break, and coasted in the second half to a victory that clinched the ACC regular-season championship.
"I've been on the other side of that," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "That's a hard feeling. I certainly feel compassion. They just missed some point-blank (shots), and I think their inexperience and youth showed up."
The game was so lopsided Bennett felt compelled to praise his team for responding "the right way."
He said his players "respected them and respected the game."
Which raises the question: What can a coach on the wrong side of that score tell his team?
"I told them I was disappointed because I thought we had a deer in the headlights look, and I did not anticipate that," Stallings said.
"If anything, we don't have anything to lose. We should just throw caution to the wind and play. That was the message before the game, but obviously it didn't work."
Stallings said he didn't anticipate his team would play as badly as it did.
"I thought we would at least be better than that in the worst case," he said.
Virginia blocked seven shots, but its defense was most effective in just positioning itself close the shooter and being disruptive. As a result, Pitt rushed many of its shots and ended up shooting a season-low 23.9 percent from the field (11 of 46).
At the outset, with the crowd of 6,534 showing some energy, Stallings started three seniors, including Monty Boykins, who is averaging 5.7 minutes per game, and walk-on Zach Smith.
Virginia opened an 8-0 lead before Stallings could insert the regulars three minutes into the game, but it didn't get any better.
Freshman Parker Stewart and Wilson-Frame led Pitt in scoring with 12 and nine points, but all of their points came from beyond the 3-point arc. Overall, Pitt had only four 2-point baskets.
While the losses pile up, Stallings remains confident he can rebuild the program next year with a healthy Ryan Luther, St. John's transfer Malik Ellison and his recruiting class.
"I knew when I took the job that this was going to be a hard year," he said. "I didn't know it was going to be this hard."
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.