Pitt’s slow start vs. Clemson leads to 11th consecutive loss
Shoulders are slumping, troubles on offense are affecting the defense and the result is Pitt can’t find a way out of its losing streak.
The Panthers looked disjointed and disinterested early, rallied briefly in the second half but in the end couldn’t avoid the inevitable, a 62-48 loss to unranked Clemson (17-11, 7-8) on Wednesday night before a crowd of 6,102 at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt (12-16, 2-13) has lost 11 games in a row after finishing 0-19 in the ACC last season.
On the way to its lowest offensive output of the season, Pitt trailed 38-16 at halftime and 44-18 about 2½ minutes into the second half.
“There’s nothing really to say about it,” freshman guard Trey McGowens said. “We just have to come out ready to play.”
Center Terrell Brown, who scored 10 of his 11 points in the second half, said the team is not deflated by its second long losing streak in as many seasons.
“I felt like we just hit a wall,” he said.
Brown, a sophomore, has a unique perspective on Pitt’s 2-32 record in the ACC over this season and 2018. He said the losing streak is much harder for him to accept because he believes this year’s team is different.
“I know we are a good team,” he said. “I see our practices. We are better than our record shows.
“We have to come together as a team. It’s not just one person. It’s a group (effort). We have to do something different.”
Xavier Johnson scored 14 points to lead the Panthers, who visit No. 2 Virginia on Saturday. Robert Morris transfer Marcquise Reed scored 14 points, and 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward Elijah Thomas recorded 12 for Clemson.
Pitt coach Jeff Capel said Clemson’s physicality and maturity was a literal example of “boys playing against men.”
Clemson, which has a senior and three graduate seniors in its starting lineup, made 15 of 27 shots in the first half, including eight of 14 from outside the 3-point arc.
“Them making shots like that, I felt that really, really knocked us back even more,” Capel said, noting he saw some shoulders slump among his players. “We’re such an immature team that we allow that to affect everything. We miss a shot, and that affects the defense. We play decent defense and they bank in a 3, and it affects the offense.
“That’s one of the many areas (where) we have to grow. We have to move on to the next play quickly.”
Much of the problem is physical. Pitt doesn’t have a player who can control action in the paint.
Brown scored 11 points for the second consecutive game, but he had only five rebounds both times. Meanwhile, Thomas added eight rebounds, five assists, three blocks and three steals to his 12 points.
Capel said mental adjustments also must be made when problems arise.
“The other thing the good teams and good players do is you have convenient amnesia,” he said. “We have lost that. I think we’ve lost a little bit of confidence. Obviously, the losing does that to you.
“We have to keep working and keep teaching, and we’ll do that.”
The first half represented, perhaps, Pitt’s worst display of basketball this season.
Pitt had more turnovers (eight) than field goals (five) while shooting 23.8 percent (5 of 21) from the floor and 55.6 from the foul line (five of nine).
“I think it’s fatigue and the wall. It’s confidence,” Capel said, trying to make sense of this season.
“It’s a lot of stuff that we are dealing with. But no one is going to feel sorry for us.”
Capel did appreciate Pitt’s 27-11 run in the second half that turned a 26-point deficit to 10 with 5:57 left in the game.
“It shows something that we are able to continue to fight when we get down,” Capel said. “And we do fight, but it’s not good that we are in those situations where we get down like that.
“We have to figure out a way to be better.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .