ShareThis Page
Reality stings as Pitt tries to climb from ACC basement | TribLIVE.com
Pitt

Reality stings as Pitt tries to climb from ACC basement

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, February 13, 2019 12:43 p.m
745431_web1_gtr-pitt14-021019
Pitt Jeff Capel looks on as Xavier Johnson scores past NC State’s Braxton Beverly in the second half Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019 at Petersen Events Center.

Pitt fell into a hole last season, losing all 19 ACC games, that now appears deeper than anyone imagined.

Blinded by a 12-5 start this season that included victories against top-20 teams Louisville and Florida State, hope surrounded first-year coach Jeff Capel’s program as late as Jan. 14.

Then reality struck. Pitt is 0-8 since that 75-62 victory against FSU and a loser in 21 consecutive games on hostile courts.

Why? How? What’s next? Here are some thoughts:

1. Pitt doesn’t react well with the game on the line.

Go back four games, and you’ll see Pitt (12-13, 2-10) was within a possession or two of the lead (or actually in the lead) in the latter stages of the second half of each contest.

Sometimes, it’s a whiff on a defensive rebound. Other times, Pitt just misses shots. Often, it’s a turnover that not only robs Pitt of a chance to score, but hands the opponent easy points.

That was the case at Boston College in a 66-57 loss Tuesday night. Down only by one point, Pitt didn’t make a basket in the final 4 minutes, 38 seconds and only one in the last 8:21. The Panthers missed all of their final nine field goal attempts, three of four free throws with the outcome at stake and committed a turnover.

Don’t totally blame youth because Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney were even younger a month ago when Pitt was 2-2 in the ACC.

It goes deeper than freshmen trying to keep their heads above water. After the game, Capel admitted that losing takes its toll, and Pitt has wallowed in it for a long time.

The Panthers have lost 30 of their past 32 ACC games. And if you care to count back to Pitt’s first season in the conference (2014), Pitt is 38-73 since joining.

Some might say the longer you lose, the closer you get to winning.

No.

For Pitt, the more it loses, the easier it is to lose again. It’s a culture that can change, but it can’t happen in one season.

2. There is no significant offensive threat.

Johnson is on the brink of rewriting Pitt’s freshman scoring record. He needs 29 points to pass Charles Smith, who had 435 in 1985.

But he either has to drive through traffic to score (often with some incredible acrobatics) or shoot over a zone defense. He’s had only three games in which he scored fewer than 10 points and they all occurred in the past month, including an eight-point effort at BC.

After his team shot 29 percent from the field in that game, Capel spoke honestly when he said, “We don’t have an inside presence.”

He wasn’t trying to be mean. His words weren’t meant to motivate.

He was merely explaining a situation he inherited when he was hired 11 months ago.

3. Capel has the tools to fix the problem.

He’s a seasoned basketball lifer, a dynamic, authoritative presence when he walks into a room and starts to speak and a respected man by high school players and coaches throughout the ACC footprint.

He also has four scholarships to give, perhaps more after the roster shakes out in the off-season.

The rest of the season offers reasonable hope for last-place Pitt to win a game or two, with games against Georgia Tech, Miami and Notre Dame (a combined 8-25). But the Panthers already have lost to Wake Forest and Boston College (5-16).

It’s called reality.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pitt
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.