Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings and his staff probably should not be evaluated on the number of wins and losses they collect in ACC play this season.
But that doesn’t mean that winning wouldn’t do the Panthers some good. The young squad has yet to taste victory in a conference game, and while head coach Kevin Stallings hasn’t seen his team’s confidence waver, he thinks some “positive mojo” could go a long way.
“We were not very good the last time out and we certainly are going to have to be a lot better than that to have a chance for any success in this league,” Stallings said on Monday’s ACC co We’re a group that’s growing. Sometimes it feels like we’re growing rapidly and sometimes it feels like our growth slows down a little bit. They continue to be a good group to coach despite the struggles. Obviously, we are hopeful of getting better and improving to the point where we can win and have some success.
“Obviously, players need to have success in order for their confidence to grow. That’s kind of where we’re at right now. We’re in search of trying to knock that door down so we can get some positive mojo, if you will, to work from and to build off.”
SUCCESS IN THE DOME
The basketball court at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome runs along the end zone of the football field, with temporary bleachers that creates an uneven look from the floor. That can be enough to throw off a first-time visitor, and with this year’s Pitt squad, they’re all doing everything for the first time.
Only senior point guard Jonathan Milligan has made the trip to Syracuse before. But he played seven minutes and was 0-for-2 from the floor in Pitt’s loss a year ago.
“It’s really a difficult proposition when you come into a league like this and you don’t have someone,” Stallings said. “The best teams have have really good veterans on them and yeah, I realize that there are teams with freshmen. I mean Duke, obviously, stands out that they have great freshmen, but you know you got Grayson Allen there who can tell those guys and show those guys the way. … It’s not just telling them through words. I’m really talking about telling them through demonstration of an example of how to play and how to think and what to do on the court at the right time and things like that.”
For Pitt, Milligan, injured senior Ryan Luther and senior guard Monty Boykins have been on the bench more than they’ve been on the court, leaving Pitt’s freshmen to figure things out amongst themselves. That has exacerbated some of the Panthers’ growing pains this season and the Carrier Dome could be another challenge in that regard.
TROUBLESHOOTING THE TROUBLE SHOOTING
Pitt’s offense has become somewhat notorious for some cold stretches this season. With a lacking interior presence, the Panthers have had to rely on jumps shots, and all jump shot-dominant teams that don’t have Steph Curry running the point go through a rough stretch from time-to-time. But Stallings thinks there’s something more to Pitt’s recurring offensive issues.
“It’s our inability to get easy baskets,” he said. “Not that you get a ton of easy baskets in this league, but I think that typically, easy baskets come from a dominant rebounding team, a dominant inside presence or maybe having a perimeter player that can penetration or draw two defenders and then start making the game easier for other people on the court.
“Marcus has done a pretty good job of trying to facilitate some things, but we but we have yet to establish the the inside game that we need in order to create some easy baskets and soI think then what happens is that puts a lot of pressure on on your jump shooting and then as you’ve seen we’re prone to going through scoring droughts.”
Stallings had to make some changes to his offensive sets when Terrell Brown first replaced Ryan Luther. But as of late, it’s been Peace Ilegomah and Kene Chukwuka holding down major minutes in the interior. Chukwuka is the best ball handler of the bunch, and while most of his value has been on defense and on the boards, he has the potential to be a distributor from the inside-out, as well.
“We have to continue to to work our inside guys,” Stallings said. “We have to throw the ball in there more. We haven’t thrown it in enough and we’ve got to throw it in there more and then when we get it in there, we’ve got to score or get fouled.”
Tipoff between the Panthers and Orange is scheduled for 9 p.m. on Tuesday. The game will be broadcast in Pittsburgh on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh and on other regional sports networks in the ACC footprint. Pittsburgh Sports Now will have live coverage from Alan Saunders at the Carrier Dome.