PITTSBURGH — Pitt’s ACC play opened with 12 minutes of competitive basketball against the No. 15-ranked Miami Hurricanes, even without the services of injured senior forward Ryan Luther.
Then, the talent took over. Pitt simply couldn’t continue to contain Miami defensively and a long scoring drought brought the Hurricanes a 19-4 run on either side of the halftime break to essentially put the game out of Pitt’s reach.
Miami is a lot better than Pitt. Without Luther, the talent disparity is perhaps insurmountable. Pitt’s guards seemed to be able to deal with the quickness of the Hurricanes defensively, and held Miami to 30 points in the first half.
But Pitt struggled underneath defensively and on offense all around. Miami had the seventh-ranked defense in the nation coming to game, according to KenPom.com, and it showed, as the Hurricane were able to thwart much of Pitt’s set-based offense.
“They’re very good at getting you off of your cut and so now, if you’re not able to use that screen effectively or if that screen doesn’t create some clearance, now you’ve sort of run around in vain,” Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings explained. “I’ve got to figure out something to help them a little bit more offensively. There were too many possession that it feels like it’s a trip to the dentist.”
The game changed in the last 8 minutes of the first half and that coincided with freshman point guard Marcus Carr collecting his third foul and finding a seat on the bench. With Pitt’s margin for error razor-thin as it is, the absence of Carr was felt deeply.
“That was a key point in the game, because that’s when they blitzed us a little bit,” Stallings said.
Carr finished with four fouls, four points and five assists in 22 minutes, his second-lowest total of the season.
Stallings said Luther is “doubtful” to play on Tuesday at Louisville. That won’t bode well for a potential matchup with Cardinals 7-footer Anas Mahmoud.
Terrell Brown held his own at times, but was still largely outmatched against Miami. When he was out of the game, things got even worse, as Kene Chukwuka and Peace Ilegomah didn’t get much of anything going at all. It’s a big ask for young players thrown into the fire to make quick improvements, but if they can’t, Pitt is going to continue to get dominated in the paint in the ACC.
In response to that, Stallings started four guards, in an attempt to get the Hurricanes to match and also play small, and that worked and helped provide the early spark needed for Pitt to keep the game close.
But Pitt’s four-guard lineup went through a tough shooting slump and Miami did an excellent job of running them off the three-point line, where Pitt finished 4 of 16.
“They have many athletic plays with long arms that could hedge and still be trailing you,” Wilson-Frame said.
SHAMIEL STEPS UP
Stallings called Shamiel Stevenson his team’s most important individual piece as far as guys that could step up in ACC play.
Stevenson did just that in his first effort Saturday. He had a team-high 16 points and was the only Panthers player that could score during the team’s cold rut. Part of that was putting out of his mind the fact that he was in his first ACC game against the No. 15 team in the country.
“I was just playing,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about anything other than helping my team win.”
Those mental hurdles can be big blocks for a young team. Pitt’s players and coaches have suggested that something similar happened in Brooklyn, when their first game against a power-conference team and first time playing in an NBA arena went off the rails quickly against Penn State.