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Small consolation, but Pitt getting closer to victory |

Small consolation, but Pitt getting closer to victory

Jerry DiPaola
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review Pitt coach Jeff Capel urges on his team Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Jeff Capel probably didn’t appreciate the question when someone asked about the mood in his locker room after Pitt had lost its ninth consecutive game.

“I mean, we’re trying to stay positive,” Pitt’s coach said, without embellishment.

Positivity is a good sign. Plus, Capel doesn’t want the media reminding him of his team’s struggles.

So here’s one positive note: Pitt opened the streak losing four games by an average margin of more than 13 points. In the past five games, the Panthers lost by fewer than six points per game, with one going into overtime.

“I thought we got a little bit closer,” he said after the 70-64 loss to No. 22 Virginia Tech on Saturday, “but still not good enough to beat a really good team.”

Here are five more notes to ponder while Pitt prepares for the final five games of the regular season.

1. The locker room is fine, thank you

Freshmen Xavier Johnson, Trey McGowens and Au’Diese Toney still play as fearlessly as they were playing at the beginning of the season. It doesn’t appear the losing streak is bothering them or their teammates.

“We’re not separating at all,” said sophomore Kham Davis, who scored seven points in 13 minutes against Virginia Tech. “We’re together. We’re actually growing stronger together.

“We’re a team, and I love every one of my teammates. We just need to keep on growing and learn how to win.”

2. Better FT shooting would help

Pitt missed five of 12 attempts in the final five minutes. Asking for perfection in tense moments might be asking too much, but 12 for 12 might have changed the way both teams approached the end of the game.

Pitt is 10th in the ACC in free-throw percentage (71). But Johnson leads the conference in successful free throws (127) and attempts (159) and is seventh in percentage (79.9). McGowens is fourth (105), tied for third (138) and 16th in percentage (76.1).

3. Assists, turnovers and 3-pointers

Basketball is a matter of being careful with the ball, getting good shots and making them. Success in those areas could mask rebounding woes.

Pitt is 14th in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio (.86). Virginia, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Duke are 1.3 and above.

A few more 3-pointers would help, too. Pitt has missed 43 of its past 59 in the past two games.

4. The Zoo keeps comin’

Attendance at Petersen Events Center on Saturday was 10,289. It was the fourth-largest of the season, behind the 12,000-plus who showed up for the North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse games.

The crowd was subdued at times but loud and encouraging as Pitt made rallies in both halves. Pitt plays an exciting brand of basketball, with plenty of fast breaks and attacks on the basket. If Pitt starts winning consistently, it will be among the hottest tickets in town.

5. Next up: The Ramblin’ Wreck

Pitt (12-14, 2-11) is in the ACC basement, but it gets a chance to start climbing out Wednesday at Georgia Tech (11-15, 3-10).

Georgia Tech is a wreck, trying to muddle through a seven-game losing streak in which it eclipsed 60 points just once. Expect another game decided by a single-digit margin.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pitt
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