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Pitt’s Free Throw Discrepancy an Issue, Especially on the Road

Pitt’s Free Throw Discrepancy an Issue, Especially on the Road

PITTSBURGH — Jeff Capel had some interesting — and unprompted — things to say about the way his team’s games have been officiated as of late after the Panthers’ latest loss to Syracuse on Saturday at Petersen Events Center.

Capel was asked about a specific call in the game that went against Pitt freshman guard Trey McGowens.

While he didn’t have an answer for that question — Capel said he got no explanation as to why the call went the way it did — he did have plenty to say about the way his team’s games have been officiated as of late.

Here’s the full exchange:

Anthony Jaskulski, Pittsburgh Sports Report: “What was the explanation you got on Trey McGowens’ offensive foul?”

Capel: “Didn’t get one. Don’t understand it. Didn’t understand it — still don’t. Not sure I’ve seen that called in college, ever.

“One of the interesting stats to me is that our first four games in conference, Xavier Johnson took 33 free throws, Trey McGowens took 49. In the four games prior to [Saturday], Xavier has taken 14 and Trey has taken four.

“Now, we’re still driving, we’re still attacking the basket. The last four teams prior to [Saturday] … at Cuse, Duke, at Louisville and at Clemson. They’re good, but man I don’t think they’ve mastered defense or mastered verticality. That’s just an interesting thing to me, and that’s been a big part of our offense.

“It was good to see us get to the line [Saturday night]. It was good to see Xavier take 12 free throws. We took 22. That was good to see, but I did not get an explanation on the call. I’m not sure anyone did.”

Andrew Fillipponi, 93.7 The Fan: “Jeff, what’s your theory on that?”

“I don’t know. I don’t have one. I’m not allowed to speak publicly about a theory, so I’m not going to.”

Jerry DiPaola, Tribune-Review: “Did you follow up with the league office, or anything like that?”

“I have.”

It certainly seemed as if Capel was prepared with the officiating as a talking point, and there’s certainly something to be said for the numbers he was talking about. Capel broke his team’s first four game and second four games, but perhaps a more prescient evaluation would be splitting the difference between home and road.

In five ACC home games, Pitt is averaging 30.6 free throws per game. In four ACC road games, Pitt is averaging 19 free throws per game.

That trend hasn’t been limited to in conference play, either. In all of Pitt’s games at Petersen Events Center, the Panthers have averaged 26.6 free-throw attempts. In six true road contests, they’ve averaged 18.7 per game.

Now, the home team getting more favorable calls in college basketball is hardly breaking news, but the disparity at play when it comes to the Panthers’ free-throw attempts is significant. A 2009 study suggested that home teams get about seven percent more foul calls than road teams. But this season, Pitt is doing nearly 50 percent better at home than they are on the road.

It’s a particularly big problem for Pitt because of how much they’ve relied on getting to the free-throw line as part of their offensive game plan. According to KenPom.com, 24.2 percent of Pitt’s offense has come from free throws this season, the sixth-highest percentage in the country.

Of the five teams above them, for have losing records on the road in conference play. South Florida (1-3), Lamar (2-4), Wake Forest (0-5) and Pacific (1-3) follow the trend while UT Rio Grande Valley (2-1) has found away to buck it.

In order to reverse that trend, Pitt will have to do one of two things: find a way to get more fouls called against the opposition when they’re on the road, or find another way to add to Pitt’s offense.

It’s possible that Capel’s words on Saturday were an attempt at rectifying the first part. The second part might be tougher to implement, as the Panthers have not shot well as of late, topping 40 percent on field goals just twice over the last six games.

The Panthers are 0-4 on the road in ACC play, 0-6 on the road overall this season and have lost 19 consecutive road games dating back nearly two years to Feb. 8, 2017.

They’ll have a prime opportunity to snap that streak on Tuesday, when they’ll visit Wake Forest, which is 1-8 overall in ACC play.

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