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Pitt Basketball

Five Takeaways from Pitt’s loss at Clemson

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CLEMSON, S.C. — In a season full of lows from an opening night loss to The Citadel and a home loss to Monmouth, Pitt men’s basketball may have hit rock bottom at Littlejohn Coliseum. 

The Panthers had more turnovers than made field goals, scored their fewest points in a game in almost two calendar years—Feb. 26, 2020 was the last game where Pitt failed to reach 50 points—and trailed by as many as 32 points in a 75-48 shellacking at Clemson. 

“They were terrific, and we were really bad,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said in his post-game opening statement, about as matter-of-factly as a coach can summarize a beatdown of that size. 

It was not a game against one of the conference’s heavyweights or a continuation of a long rut. Pitt (7-12, 2-6) entered Saturday with two wins in its last four games and an opportunity to keep the momentum going against a Clemson (3-5, 11-8) team that came into Saturday on a three-game losing streak. 

Everything was set up for Pitt to claim its first road win of the season or at least compete for it. 

What happened instead was the worst performance of the season, a bad first half that exploded into a second half meltdown with a parade of turnovers, a hapless defense and eventually a technical foul on Capel. 

“This was not a good performance,” Capel said. “I don’t put a lot into it. We’ll move on to the next play, we’ll get back, and we’ll get ready for the next game.” 

Getting ready for the next game is the only option for Capel after Saturday. His team still has more than half of its conference schedule remaining and will have to recover from a full-systems failure. 

Everything went wrong, which means everything must be fixed before Pitt hits the court again on Tuesday against Syracuse. 

Turnovers 

No matter what else went wrong for Pitt—and there was plenty—everything led back to the turnovers. The Panthers turned the ball over 20 times and only made 16 shots from the floor, and the problem only worsened as the game went on with 11 second half turnovers to seven made field goals in the second half. 

“Clemson’s defense was very intense and they forced us into 20 turnovers,” Capel said. “That was the problem. We didn’t do a great job of valuing the basketball—or even a good job.” 

Most galling for Pitt was how spread out the turnovers were. It was not just one player having an off night. Of the 11 players Capel used, nine turned the ball over, and six did so at least twice. John Hugley led the team with four, but Capel was not going to put the blame all on his sophomore forward. 

“Everyone on our team has to step up,” Capel said. “It’s not about John, Jamarius [Burton] or anyone in particular, everyone on our team has to step up and play better.” 

Soft Zone

The other end of the court wasn’t much better for the Panthers. And once again when asked about it, all Capel could do was offer a very short but also very blunt response. 

“It’s been bad,” he said about the zone defense. “It hasn’t been good.”

Clemson finished the game with a staggering 19 assists on 22 made field goals, slicing and dicing through the zone at will straight from the opening tip. The Tigers regularly either exploited space on the perimeter that led to 12 made 3-pointers, and when those weren’t falling, they were able to bang and crash inside enough to force Pitt into 20 total fouls.

“We haven’t gotten the shooters, we haven’t moved, we haven’t kept it out of the high post,” Capel said about the struggles in zone. “We have to get back to work and become better at it.” 

Extended Slumps 

Two lengthy stretches of play without any cohesion or consistency on offense sunk Pitt’s hopes. From the 11:28 mark to the 2:27 mark of the first half, Pitt only hit two shots from the floor, and then again from 16:42 to 7:45 in the second half the Panthers were empty on field goals.

It adds up to 7:58—around 45 percent of the game—with two made shots. Clemson outscored Pitt 33-12 during those two stretches, including 12-2 in the second half.

If not for Clemson’s own stretch of over seven minutes without a made field goal, the onslaught could have been even worse. 

“They were very physical,” Capel said. “They pinched the floor, they didn’t guard some guys for us, and they had a lot of help side. And they pressured the basketball.” 

None For The Road 

Five road games, five losses for the 2021-22 Pitt Panthers.

The five losses have come by an average of 11.6 points, and three of them were non-competitive games with a 15-point loss at West Virginia and a 16-point loss at Syracuse joining Saturday’s 28-point defeat in Clemson. 

Pitt will get the reprieve of a home game against Syracuse on Tuesday night, but a road trip to Boston College looms after. The Panthers still have six road games left in conference play, and four of them will be against teams currently in the top six in the ACC standings. 

“Clemson was terrific in every phase of the game today,” Capel said in conclusion. They were terrific offensively, they were terrific defensively, and we were not.”

And while Capel was correct in his analysis, it also begs the question: If a trip to Clemson—one of just three other ACC teams with two or fewer conference wins—can’t help his team move in the right direction, can anything?

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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TJ
TJ
10 months ago

I agree with the assessment. While Clemson may have been “terrific” … I don’t consider them that great of a team. They just played well and exploited every one of our weaknesses.

Send it in !
Send it in !
10 months ago
Reply to  TJ

Clemson is not even a good team. Pitt is just extremely bad, You only have to take away 2 Pitt players or limit them (Hugely & Burton) is Pitt has no consistent scorers.
Just an extremely poor job of using the portal and of recruiting (1 last year from HS) and NONE for 2022 class.

Richard Lovato
Richard Lovato
10 months ago

Give him more time, right Mike?

Send it in !
Send it in !
10 months ago

5 Take-A-Ways

1) Can’t Recruit
2) Can’t Coach
3) Can’t hire capable asst’s.
4) Paid way too much
5) Why is a guy who never had a winning season EXTENDED ?

Tom D
Tom D
10 months ago

Not sure what Capel is doing with this roster: Azeakuda is a nice spark player, but he shouldn’t be playing big minutes. 8 minutes a game for defensive purposes but he’s terrible. Same thing with Jefrees. Play Santos. He’s not afraid to shoot the ball. Team’s a mess quite frankly. But if Hughley was on this roster last season–they could have kept it all together. Would have been a completely different program. Same thing about Horton and Sibande–if they had those two, this would be a .500 team. Stupid mistakes off the court have crushed Capel’s tenure. I feel for… Read more »

Irish Hammer
Irish Hammer
10 months ago
Reply to  Tom D

What a disgrace. This guy can’t recruit. Oklahoma State couldn’t wait to fire this clown. Why can’t Pitt hire a young dynamic Coach that’s been successful in a smaller college that knocks off a couple Power 5 teams. A Recruiter is critical! Pitt is a ACC Team. Bring in a Recruiter.

Dukes

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