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If Pitt Wants to Win, They Need to Cut Down on Turnovers



PITTSBURGH — From the first game of the season — a disappointing loss at Navy on Nov. 10 — it has been pretty clear that Pitt was going to have trouble with turnovers this season.

The Panthers turned the ball over 13 times against the Midshipmen, handed over 14 points off turnovers and lost the game by nine.

That trend has played itself out over and over again, with the Panthers’ deficit in their losses closely tracking the number of points they’ve allowed to come from turnovers.

On the season, Pitt has given up 343 points on 301 turnovers for 1.14 points per possession and their 15.1 turnovers per game are tied for 297th out of 351 Division I teams.

The rest of the time, the Panthers are allowing just about a point per possession, meaning that their results would actually improve by around three points per game if every time they were about to turn the ball over, they just fired it into the stands instead.

Of course, every team is worse on defense after they turn the ball over. The key is not turning the ball over in the first place.

In that regard, Pitt head coach Kevin Stallings doesn’t see a magic potion to reverse his team’s trend of being careless with the basketball. He doesn’t see one particular player or situation that his team gets itself in that is causing more problems than others.

“It’s a wide array of situations,” Stallings said. “I just think it’s inexperience and it’s carelessness, in some cases. I tell our team that the turnovers are
usually a result of carelessness or selfishness. Neither one of those are
good, but in our case, it’s a lot more careless than it is selfish.

“Careless can be is a little bit of a bad word because sometimes, it’s just not knowing or not understanding, ‘Hey, this is not a good spot to get myself into.’ Or, we take one dribble and pick it up when that’s kind of a cardinal sin. You don’t do that unless unless you have somebody to pass it to. So, I think it’s just needed growth in the game and the experience of playing against really high-level competition.”

Pitt point guard Marcus Carr and small forward Shamiel Stevenson each have 21 assists to lead the Panthers, but just looking at the total doesn’t tell a complete picture. For one, Carr has played 34 more minutes than Stevenson has this year and as the team’s primary point guard, he has the ball in his hands more than anyone else.

Secondly, Carr’s 21 turnovers are somewhat offset by 23 assists. He’s the only player on the team with a positive assist-to-turnover ratio. The rest of Pitt’s turnovers are coming without the benefit of playmaking. Stevenson is among the team’s most guilty of that sin, with five assists, compared to 21 turnovers, but Jared Wilson-Frame (7-16), Jonathan Milligan (6-11), Kene Chukwuka (6-10), Khameron Davis (5-8) and Terrell Brown (3-6) all have lopsided ratios.

With the Panthers averaging 1.14 points per turnover against, cutting the number of turnovers back to even an average number would go a long way to keeping the Panthers competitive in the ACC.

Pitt hosts North Carolina State on Wednesday evening at 9 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers are 0-7 and still looking for their first win in conference play.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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