PITTSBURGH — Pitt had its first ACC regular-season victory in nearly a calendar firmly within its grasp on Wednesday, as the Panthers maintained a double-digit lead through most of the second half against North Carolina State.
Instead, it slipped through their fingers as the Panthers shooters went cold and NC State finished on a 15-2 run to seal Pitt’s eighth straight conference loss.
Pitt didn’t help themselves much, as the young Panthers turned the ball over and took some ill-advised shots.
“We had that one stretch when we got a little bit individual and we took two or three bad shots, three or four bad shots, maybe, and they weren’t necessary shots we needed to take,” head coach Kevin Stallings said.
Pitt had several chances for someone to come up with a big basket, but no one could make it happen down. While Jared Wilson-Frame set a career high, Parker Stewart and Marcus Carr were each held below their season average.
“It’s a little bit of a demonstration of our margin for error,” Stallings said. “[Parker Stewart] has a bad night on a night where Jared has a good night. We need as many of our main cogs on top of their game as we can get.”
Jared Wilson-Frame had a career night, hitting 7 of 14 from the floor for 22 points, 18 of which came in the first half while the Panthers soared to big lead, reversing an early 17-6 NC State advantage.
Wilson-Frame was effective in the first half from 3-point range and early in the second half with driving penetration. He felt he needed to drive more late in the game.
“That was something I was telling myself to do a lot earlier in the game, especially after I saw their big guys getting into foul trouble,” he said. “I think it’s something I shied away from and as a result, some of the other guys kind of played into that because they saw me doing that.”
But things fell apart down the stretch for Wilson-Frame and the Panthers. Pitt didn’t make a second-half 3-pointer. Wilson-Frame missed back-to-back questionable shots, followed that up with a turnover and then found himself on the Pitt bench with 2:15 to play. Stallings said that he “didn’t remember” why Wilson-Frame was sat down, but it was no mystery to Wilson-Frame.
“It was being a little careless with the ball,” he said. “I put that on my shoulders a lot. Just not focusing on maintaining the lead and taking it to them with the ball. I kind of rushed a couple shots. I think I’ve just got to be better maintaining the lead and taking care of the ball.”
Pitt played predominately in a 2-3 zone defense for the first time this season after experimenting with it over the last few games. It seemed to work, with NC State tying a season low in field goal percentage.
“Our zone was good to us,” Stallings said. “We got down 17-6 and it was beginning to feel like the Georgia tech game where we got so far behind, but from that point to the end of the first half, I felt like we played as well as we have played all season long.”
Despite giving up height and size inside to the Wolfpack’s seven-footer, Omer Yurtseven, Pitt outscored NC State in the paint and gave up just eight more rebounds, an issue typically exacerbated by playing zone.
CARR OFF MARK
With Pitt down four with under two minutes to play, the Panthers drew up a play for Shamiel Stevenson off an in-bounds. Stevenson was covered, but he kicked it out to Carr or a wide-open 3-pointer that clanged off the iron.
“We had a wide open shot from the top of the key and we didn’t make it,” Stallings said. “We had our chances.”
Carr has been ice-cold from beyond the arc lately. He hasn’t made a 3-pointer in five straight games and is 0 for 17 in that stretch.