PITTSBURGH — Basketball is a complicated game, with lots of moving parts, substitutions, changing defenses and offensive sets.
But at it’s core, basketball is about shooting. One team gets the ball, then the other. The team that makes more shots typically wins. That happened Tuesday, as Pitt shot 55 percent from the floor, High Point shot 37.3 percent and Pitt won, 71-63.
But the game was closer than the difference in shooting, for the most part, because High Point had a ton of extra possessions. Pitt turned the ball over 22 times, compared to 10 for High Point, which led to the visitors taking a 3-point lead at one point in the second half before Pitt pulled ahead late.
Failing to take care of the basketball has been a recurring theme for Pitt this season. The Panthers have turned the ball over more than their opponents in six straight games. Coming into the game, the Panthers’ 83 turnovers tied them for 173rd in the country alongside lesser lights such as Cornell, Delaware, Eastern Illinois and North Carolina AT&T, and that figure will surely balloon after the 22 on Tuesday.
Part of Pitt’s problem with turnovers is going to be that the Panthers have seven freshmen, nine first-time Division I players and 10 new faces in the lineup this season. That’s a lot of change and a lot of players moving up a level at the same time.
The passes that Marcus Carr made in an AAU game or Jared Wilson-Frame was able to convert at his junior college don’t always get through at the Division I level. That learning curve is understandable and necessary.
But there was another part of equation on Tuesday, that Kevin Stallings was less than please with. There comes a point when there’s a difference between a player making a mistake and being a bit too cavalier with the basketball, and he felt that the Panthers crossed that line repeatedly.
“So many of the turnovers were unforced,” Stallings said. “Really, just very, very unforced, casual, lazy passes. … It goes back to a couple of guys not understanding the intensity that you have to play with in a Division I basketball game.”
Senior forward Ryan Luther, who had four turnovers of his own, saw it the same way.
“They were pressing, but we just weren’t making passes. We weren’t staying strong with the ball in the half court. Their press caused some turnovers, but in the half court, we were just giving them the ball.”
CARR IN GEAR
Marcus Carr set a career high with 19 points and didn’t miss a single shot that he took in what was unquestionably the best performance of his young career.
But Carr thinks he can be better.
His team-high five turnovers, in particular did not sit well with the young guard and he said he’d trade his points for more assists (he had two) and taking better care of the basketball.
“We’ve got to do a better job locking in, really just being strong on the ball and taking care of the ball,” Carr said. “A lot of that was on me, my part. I had five turnovers myself. It’s unacceptable.”
Pitt did not handle High Point’s press particularly well and the visitors used it to go on a 10-1 run in the second half and close things back up after Pitt had pulled ahead.
The Panthers knew the press was coming and practiced all week with six players on the defensive side of the court. Stallings said they practiced it well, but didn’t handle it well enough in the game.
That’s one of the benefits of playing a team like High Point in Pitt’s non conference schedule. It also means the Panthers have a lot of work to do before the real Press Virginia.
GONNA NEED A BIGGER BENCH
Stallings used a season-high 15 players, partially in response to his team’s shortcomings with the basketball in their hands. When carelessness is the order of the day, about the only option for a head coach at that point is to turn to else.
“You find other guys that can play,” Stallings said. “If guys don’t want to go in and play with the intensity, the toughness and the ball care that it needs, then you gotta find them. If we’ve got to put four guards out there on the floor with Ryan, we’ll put four guards out there with Ryan. We’re going to find five guys that can take care of the ball if it costs me the rest of my hair.”
LUTHER (IN THE) KEY
Luther had another big performance with 15 points and eight rebounds. Stallings was asked if that pace will be sustainable during conference play.
“It’s gong to have to be.”
Stallings also feels that Luther can still become a more-consistent version of himself.
“There’s more in there, I promise,” Stallings said.