Pitt men's defensive woes continue in an 81-69 loss at Indiana
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — It's a suggestion that isn't likely to be heeded, but after Pitt's 81-69 loss to Indiana Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Panthers might want to play more to their strengths.
Right now, the days of the Panthers winning on the strength of their defense are becoming rare, indeed.
A 12-point loss to Indiana before 17,472 fans at Assembly Hall and a national television audience was the latest example of the Panthers' poor defensive play combined with not nearly enough offense. It resulted in another eye-opening defeat for Pitt (4-3), which trailed by as many as 23 points in the second half.
Moreover, it was a performance that typified the Panthers' struggles to find common ground at both ends of the court.
“Disappointing,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. “From start to finish, I think the best thing we did was compete.”
With the Panthers unable to establish a defensive identity, Dixon may need to emphasize a team strength so far this season (up-tempo offense created by quick guards and wings) over their obvious weakness (defense).
For the fourth time in five games, the Panthers' permitted an opponent to shoot better than 50 percent from the field (54.1 percent) — unheard of in the Dixon era. Three of those games resulted in losses.
It was simply more of the same Tuesday for Pitt, which trailed 45-37 at intermission, shot only 36.1 percent from the field and wasn't a factor in the second half.
“When our offense isn't going well, it doesn't seem like we have the belief in our defense to get it done,” Dixon said.
Even the Panthers' rebounding advantage (44-36 overall, 25-13 on the offensive glass) failed to generate much enthusiasm.
“We had 25 offensive rebounds ... we were doing a lot of missing,” said sophomore forward Michael Young (13 points, five rebounds). Pitt shot 26 for 72 from the field.
As usual, Pitt's backcourt failed to prevent Indiana's guards from driving all the way to the basket, or passing to an open teammate.
“Guys beat straight off the dribble,” said Dixon, who attributed much of Indiana's success getting to the basket to individual breakdowns on defense. “Some that were hard to believe.”
Left with few options, the Panthers attempted to match Indiana basket-for-basket late in the first half.
Trailing 36-23, the Panthers rallied behind four consecutive 3-pointers — including three in a row from sophomore guard Chris Jones, who scored a game-high 18 points but had only two points in the second half.
Still, the Panthers were uneven, displaying unpredictable peaks and valleys when consistency was required against a hot-shooting opponent playing at home.
Indiana (6-1) featured four players in double figures, led by Emmit Holt with 15 points. The Hoosiers broke the game open by shooting 60.7 percent in the second half.
Typical of the Panthers' frustration was a sequence of plays early in the second half. Young awoke offensively, scoring four consecutive points to make it 47-41.
However, Pitt broke down at the other end, allowing yet another driving layup followed by a 3-pointer that made it 52-41 and forced Dixon to call timeout.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.