Pitt, upcoming opponent Georgia Tech going through similar shooting woes
When Jeff Capel was a sophomore at Duke 24 years ago, he hit 3-pointers at an impressive rate of 46 percent. In today’s game, that would put him among the top-10 long-range shooters in the NCAA.
Clearly, Pitt’s coach knows something about putting a basketball through the net. More than anything, he knows it’s a team effort.
“The screening, the cutting,” he said Monday on the ACC coaches teleconference. “The understanding that even if the play is not for you, your role in it is very important.”
It’s a concept that has eluded the Panthers and their upcoming hosts, the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets, at various points of the season.
Georgia Tech (11-15, 3-10), which will tip off against Pitt at 9 p.m. Wednesday, is last in the ACC in scoring (64.9 points per game) and 11th in shooting percentage at 43.1.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had a lid on the basket,” coach Josh Pastner said.
Pitt is 12th in field-goal percentage, hitting only 42.8 percent of its shots. The Panthers hit a low for the season last week at Boston College, shooting 29 percent while stretching their road losing streak to 21 games.
What’s interesting is Pitt has not been shy about putting up shots. It is sixth in the ACC in attempts (1,480).
“At times, I have been (pleased with his team’s shot selection),” Capel said. “At times, I haven’t. At times, we’ve gotten good looks and taken them and haven’t made them at the rate that we would like.”
Pitt often plays at a fast pace, with freshman point guard Xavier Johnson trying to use his speed to get ahead of the defense. When he’s unable to find a path to the basket — usually when the opponent is in a zone defense — the play sometimes turns into a missed jumper or a turnover. While handling the ball on most of Pitt’s trips downcourt, Johnson has 100 turnovers in 26 games.
Other times, Pitt has rushed shots, Capel said.
“We have to be a little more poised and little bit more disciplined,” he said. “Sometimes we get sped up. That’s what I mean about having the poise. That’s part of discipline and execution of everything.”
Capel said opponents often are backing their defense into the paint, cutting off lanes to the basket.
“We haven’t shot the ball well, so even in man, (the defense) is not out contesting as much. (It’s) trying to take away passes, really concentrating on Xavier and Trey (McGowens).
“They’ve really tried to close gaps and take away driving opportunities, stuff at the basket for those two guys, especially.”
Georgia Tech’s shooting problems go back almost a year when Josh Okogie declared for the NBA Draft after two seasons.
“It’s the reason we are in the position we are this year because we don’t have him, and we didn’t expect to lose him,” said Pastner, whose team has lost seven in a row. “When you got a guy who can score 20 a game and was a 3-star recruit and wasn’t one of the top 10 players in the state of Georgia and didn’t start on his AAU team, you weren’t expecting that he was going to be leaving after his sophomore year and be the 20th pick in the draft.
“It’s great for Josh, great for Georgia Tech. It just (stinks) for this season for us.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .