CLEMSON, S.C. — Littlejohn Coliseum began emptying out at halftime Tuesday. With their beloved Tigers leading by 28 points, fans clad in orange and purple left the arena early to either beat the traffic, to escape the cold of January, or just because they felt Clemson had this one wrapped up.
Those fans that departed prematurely didn’t miss much. The second half ended the same way the first half did, with Clemson in the lead by a lot.
In one of their worst defensive performances of the season, Pitt fell to the Clemson Tigers late Tuesday evening, 82-69 in front of an announced crowd of 6,474 fans. It marked the fourth consecutive loss for Jeff Capel’s club, which allowed the Tigers to shoot 51.9 percent from three-point land.
Although the Panthers are young, they had been priding themselves on defense this year and were ranked 18th by KenPom in defensive efficiency entering Tuesday. Clemson shot 55.3 percent from the floor, the most shooting success Pitt has allowed to an opponent this season.
Clemson (12-8, 2-5 ACC) opened the game with an impressive 22-5 run. It featured dunks and blocks and steals and three-pointers by the Tigers, and nothing much from the Panthers. Pitt (12-9, 2-6 ACC) couldn’t seem to get out of its own way during that opening stretch, turning the ball over five times and missing three lay-ups in the first eight minutes of the game.
Pitt was left wondering if the opening moments would have been any different had Au’Diese Toney been on the floor. The freshman, who has been one of the Panthers’ top defenders this season, missed the contest with a hand injury. The 6-foot-6 wing had started in every game this season and was leading the Panthers in rebounding with six boards per-game. Without Toney, Pitt lost the rebounding battle, 30-27.
The Panthers waited until after halftime to string together an impressive run, outscoring Clemson 20-12 to open the second half. But by then, the hole Pitt had dug itself was too deep.
Leading the way for Pitt on the stat sheet was Xavier Johnson, who led all scorers with 30 points. Jared Wilson-Frame chipped in 14 points and four rebounds. It is the seventh time this season that Johnson has scored 20 points or more in a game, which sets a Pitt single-season freshman record.
In all, Pitt turned the ball over 12 times, went 13-of-21 from the free throw line and made 45.3 percent of its shots from the floor.
For Clemson, former Robert Morris guard Marcquise Reed led the way in scoring, notching 26 points to go along with two rebounds and three assists.
The Panthers will look to snap their losing streak on Saturday when they host Syracuse for a 6 p.m. tip-off at the Petersen Events Center.
— Mitchell Northam (@primetimeMitch) January 30, 2019