PITTSBURGH — Nothing has gone quite right just yet for Pitt as a team. While they lack the scoring output that Jeff Capel would like to see from his team, it is not the end of the line. In fact, it would be okay if Pitt was a gritty, well-coached defensive team that simply could not shoot. That would imply great communication and a way for the Panthers to grind out the game in an ugly, but dignified manner. Yet, nothing to the short is emerging.
Pitt’s Perimeter Defense is a Massive Issue
Not to mince words, the Panthers came into the game allowing opponents to shoot 34% from three-point range. That ranked tenth in the ACC. UMBC attacked that weakness and exploited it to a hyper degree. The Retrievers shot an absurd 65% from beyond the arc in the first half. It was a performance that the Panthers certainly will not relish in.
More importantly, it does not appear the Panthers are communicating at a high level. There are wide-open players left in the corner. Moreover, the rotations the Panthers try to execute are never properly executed at a high level. It would be easy to chalk it up to a bad day, but this is multiple games this is coming up now for Pitt.
If the Panthers remotely want to improve down the stretch, their perimeter defense is going to be the place they have to improve the most. The Citadel and UMBC put up a combined 27 three-pointers on the Pitt defense. That is not going to be acceptable at any level, and it could get very ugly when the Panthers reach conference play.
John Hugley Must be the Focal Point, But His Teammates Have to Help Him
John Hugley put up 21 points on ten shots, eight of which he sank. There can be an identity to Pitt as a basketball team. It involves Hugley dominating down low, getting to the line, and being the focal point of Pitt’s offense. Now, the perimeter shooting the Panthers showcased on Saturday helped open things up for Hugley. While teams are packing the paint to stop Hugley, Pitt punished the Retrievers by sinking a season-high 11 threes.
The recipe to victory is almost always with a high octane performance from Hugley. He is the bread and butter of the Panthers’ offense. No matter how it is examined, he must be the guy that teams come in and have to stop. He struggled in the two games prior to Saturday, averaging only 4 points per game in those preceding two games.
Then, when the Panthers sink their perimeter shots at an unprecedented rate thus far on the season, the Paint magically opens for the talented Sophomore from Cleveland, Ohio.
It will be a matter of his teammates helping him dominate in upcoming games. Even a strong performance from Hugley means nothing if the Panthers can not get after it defensively, but if his teammates can sink shots like they did today, there should be a few more wins showing up for Pitt.
Femi Odukale’s Last Two Games are Extremely Promising
There are few things as confounding as Femi Odukale’s season thus far. He has been the definition of a seesaw. On one night, Odukale will drop an easy twenty points. Then, on another, he is benched and does not score until late in the second half. This is the very real story of Odukale’s Sophomore story. However, that does not mean it is a disappointing season that there is nothing to be taken from.
Putting up a strong 19 points is always nice to see for Odukale, however, it is not the story to be taken away from this game. It is the manner in which Odukale put up the 19 points. Going 7-8 from the free-throw line a game after Odukale went 7-7 from the line. It has been a weakness of Odukale’s throughout his college career, however, maybe he is starting to figure out his groove from the charity stripe.
In addition, Odukale attempted five three-pointers, sinking two of them. Coming into the game, he had only attempted six three-pointers. That is something that Pitt needs badly. It can not just be Nate Santos throwing up three-pointers every night, there have to be other weapons.
Perhaps Odukale should get the green light to attack beyond the arc more often. In fact, there is no reason not to believe that Odukale should not shoot the rock more often. The Panthers need some source of offense throughout the rest of the season, and to say the least, Odukale’s performance on Saturday should give somewhat of a blueprint.