NEW YORK — The outcome was familiar, as the Pitt Panthers dropped their fourth game in five tries to start the 2017-18 season with a 73-67 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the consolation final of the Legends Classic.
The Panthers played the entire second half tight to the Cowboys, but couldn’t seem to make the one big shot they needed to break the game open. The Panthers shot 4-of-20 (20 percent) from 3-point range, their lowest percentage of the season.
But while the Panthers came up short in the final margin, they showed some signs of progress against the Cowboys.
Freshman point guard Marcus Carr recorded career highs in points 12 and assists 10 for his first career double-double while also grabbing four rebounds. His classmate, forward Shamiel Stevenson, led the Panthers with 16 points and was an efficient 8 of 9 from the floor. Jared Wilson-Frame (13) and Ryan Luther (10) both also cracked double digits.
Pitt also played a far more aggressive defense, and with a much higher energy level than they had in Monday’s lopsided loss to Penn State on the very same floor. The defensive improvement was made even more impressive by the fact that the Cowboys entered the game ranked No. 44 in the country in offensive efficiency by KenPom.com, by far the most efficient offense the Panthers have played against this season.
But some of the same issues that have plagued the Panthers all season also reared their ugly heads and helped provide the Cowboys with their margin for victory. Pitt was out-rebounded, 43-28, and gave up 20 offensive rebounds.
The Panthers will leave New York and return to Pittsburgh for the holiday break with a 1-4 record, but their schedule will lighten after Thanksgiving. Pitt will play its next nine games inside the city limits, starting with Lehigh on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.