PITTSBURGH — Fresh off a monumental ACC win over Florida State to begin its 2019-20 campaign, Pitt looked to keep its momentum rolling Saturday in a non-conference afternoon affair with Southland Conference foe Nicholls State. All indications pointed toward the Panthers trending upward after edging the Seminoles in a game in which they started slow, weathered adversity, and used a late push to leave the Petersen Events Center with a two-point victory.
And, fittingly, the Panthers mirrored their previous habits against Nicholls State Saturday with another sluggish start. This time, however, they were unable to atone for their inconsistencies, falling to the Colonels, 75-70, by way of sloppy performances on both ends of the floor.
The Panthers erased a 10-point halftime deficit and cut the lead to one with 31 seconds left, but failed to string together consecutive defensive stops at the end as the Colonels ultimately emerged victorious out of an infamous trap game.
Ryan Murphy led all scorers with 28 points on 10 of 17 shooting, including a 4 for 7 mark from beyond the arc. D’Angelo Hunter (17 points), Kevin Johnson (16 points), and Andre Jones all finished in double figures for Nicholls State. As a team, the Colonels shot 41.5 percent from the field and 45.8 percent on 3-point attempts.
Pitt shot a high 50 percent (28 of 56) from the field, albeit a low 25 percent (4 of 16) from beyond the arc. The Panthers committed 21 turnovers, to which the Colonels translated into 26 points, and split the rebounding margin, 36-36. They attempted just six free throws over the entire second half.
Pitt missed its first seven shots to begin the game, with five turnovers on its first nine possessions as Nicholls State stretched an early 9-1 lead. The Panthers’ first made bucket came at the 13-minute mark of the half, when Trey McGowens converted an and-one layup that trickled in off the top of the backboard. But otherwise, McGowens struggled to facilitate as the team’s primary ballhandler. He ended the first half with three of the team’s eight turnovers, four points and two assists. Xavier Johnson wasn’t much better, either. He didn’t score until the 1:17 mark in the first half.
Both finished the game with 10 points, respectively, to go along with a combined nine turnovers.
For as poor as Pitt was offensively, its defense was equally abysmal. An inability to contest perimeter shooters plagued them throughout the game.
The Panthers look next to a road contest with Robert Morris in the inaugural game at UPMC Events Center on Nov. 12.