After a tough loss at Miami on Sunday evening, Pitt had simply no time to reflect.
After just one day of practice, the Panthers will now host No. 11 Louisville at 7 p.m. on Tuesday night.
“It’s difficult,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said Monday. “Especially when it’s a Sunday night game, at a destination that is the furthest away from you — Miami is the longest road trip that we have.
“You play a game. It’s a hard-fought game. You get back super late, and then you come right away and have one day to prepare, and then you’re playing again the next day. You just prepare. It’s similar to some of these multi-team tournaments. And hopefully, our guys have legs. Hopefully, we’re rested enough to be smart with what we do today (Monday) and be prepared for an outstanding team Tuesday.”
The Panthers lost to the Cardinals at KFC Yum! Center back on Dec. 6. Since that matchup, both teams have shown the ability to fall victim to the strenuous life in the ACC.
Louisville was No. 1 in the country when Pitt came into their building in early December. In the Cardinals very next game, they got thumped in Madison Square Garden to a then-unranked Texas Tech squad. They also lost to No. 10 Kentucky, No. 9 Florida State in the following weeks. The Cardinals then picked up two ACC wins beating Miami at home, and on Saturday scraped by Notre Dame, who is one of three teams (UNC and Wake Forest) with just one win in conference play, by only three points.
Pitt’s two trip-ups have come within ten days of each other. De-spiriting losses came at home vs. Wake Forest (1-4 ACC) on Jan. 4 and at Miami (2-3 ACC) on Sunday. In those two games, the Panthers picked up their first road win in over two years at North Carolina.
But surely, the next game is the most important, in a lengthy college hoops season.
The Panthers get the advantage of playing at home, with students back on campus, and a clear underdog mentality. But Louisville receives the benefit of catching Pitt on just one day of rest between games.
Thinking back to Louisville’s 64-46 win against Pitt in December, one thing about that game stood out to Panthers’ coach Jeff Capel.
“Hopefully, they don’t hit nine 3’s in the first half like they did (in the first meeting),” Capel said of Louisville. “I think every kid that got into the game for them hit at least one 3. I was looking at their stats last night, their conference stats, and they have three guys that I think have (made) one 3 in the conference in five games, and obviously, that came against us.”
Anyone who watches basketball, at any level, knows just how vital success from the 3-point line is anymore. Pitt has seen the effects first-hand early on in conference play, just how different games play out when they are or aren’t hitting from deep.
In Pitt’s two conference wins thus far, they have made a combined 18 3s and in their three losses, they’ve made only 13 3-pointers.
But moreover, making it tough on the other team to get open looks from long range, is equally as important.
In their two ACC wins, Capel’s squad held the opposition to just 11 makes from beyond the arc. In the losses, opponents made 26.
On the season, Louisville is shooting 37.5% as a team, from 3. On the other end, they are holding teams to 29.2%. Pitt’s numbers are 29.5% and 32.4%, respectively.
“Hopefully, we can do a better job with our defense (tomorrow) – especially at the 3-point line,” Capel added. “(Then) we can limit the lulls that we have in scoring, (and) hopefully we are able to put the ball in the basket.”
Pitt’s 46 points against the Cards in the first meeting was their lowest point total this season by 13 points and 20 points under their season average of just over 66 points per game.