Pitt’s four-game losing streak has been characterized by awful starts for the Panthers, especially offensively.
In the first game of the losing streak, Pitt was led by a 19-point first-half showing from John Hugley. However, other than Hugley, the Panthers struggled to contribute around him, and went into the half trailing the Eagles.
Then came the Wake Forest blunder. Pitt was down by 22 at the half, and could never claw its way back, losing 91-75.
Next was the first game against Virginia Tech, in which Pitt fell down by 27 at halftime. The Panthers came back with all they had in the second half in that game and pulled it to within three, but still came up short for the loss.
Lastly was Monday night’s rematch at Virginia Tech, and it was more of the same for Pitt. After taking an early five-point lead right out of the gates, Pitt fell apart on the offensive side of things. The offense went cold shooting-wise and the movement was non-existent off the ball, all while Virginia Tech was making shots of their own.
“Our slow start really hurt us again,” Jeff Capel said after the game. “We got off to a good start the first five minutes, but we played really hard, we defended and we moved. Then after that, they just went on a spree.”
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) February 8, 2022
“They got open looks, penetration, stuff of of screens, ball-screen stuff, and we weren’t able to score. We missed at least four layups if I remember off the top of my head. Some stuff right near the basket that we weren’t able to finish. Outside of Mo, we really didn’t have anyone that was scoring. Again, disappointing for us, but congrats to them.”
HUGLEY COMES OFF BENCH, STRUGGLES INSIDE AGAIN
Pitt’s leading scorer on the season, John Hugley, came off the bench for the first time all season.
In Saturday night’s loss to the Hokies, Hugley dropped just two points, a season low. On Monday, Virginia Tech once again crowded the lane and completely disrupted Hugley’s game, holding him again to just two points.
“I think the thing is, him and us as a team, we ought to switch our game plan,” Gueye said about Hugley’s recent scoring drought. “We ought to realize, teams are adjusting, and teams have realized, it has been like that for the past five games, teams know how much of a threat he is. He’s getting the ball and getting double teamed, and now they are even sending the weak-side guard over. So, we have to realize that. It’s not only on him but everyone else on the perimeter to figure out, to be visible in order for him to make that easy pass, to get that pass out. And then from there we’ve got to swing it and move it. Really, right now, it’s just an adjustment.”
Gueye is right in the fact that Virginia Tech once again sent double teams towards Hugley the instant the ball was headed his way. Once he got the ball, he appeared rushed and could not find the open man due to a stagnant group of Panthers out there with him. That resulted in five turnovers from Hugley in just 21 minutes.
APPRECIATE MO GUEYE’S CONSISTENCY
One of the bright spots for Pitt on Monday night, and frankly, all season, has been the emergence of Stony Brook Graduate transfer Mo Gueye.
Gueye, a 6-foot-10 forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, has excelled on the outside this season, and did more of the same in Pitt’s loss to the Hokies.
In the loss, Gueye knocked down a season-high five three pointers on seven attempts. He was hitting contested threes, open threes, and created for himself at a level that Pitt desperately needed to stay afloat when everyone else was cold.
Mo Gueye's third three-pointer of the night falls for Pitt, and cuts the VT lead to 8. At 6-foot-9/6-foot-10 with that wingspan, he is so deadly from outside. Pitt just needs someone else to help him out tonight.. Other than Gueye, Pitt is 2 for 13 from the field
— George Michalowski (@MichalowskiCBB) February 8, 2022
Gueye has made at least three field goals in 14 of Pitt’s 23 games. He has scored at least nine points in ten of Pitt’s last 14 games, and has a team-high nine games with at least two three-pointers. He has been one of, if not the most consistent player on the Panthers scoring-wise all season, and especially as of late.
Since falling to Wake Forest on Feb. 2, Pitt has now lost all three games in February by an average of 16 points.
Last year’s Pitt team entered February sitting at 8-5 and then went 1-5 in the month, leading to yet another record below .500 to end the year.
The year prior? 2-7 in the month of February.
Lastly, in Capel’s first year at the helm, the Panthers went 0-7 in February.
Jeff Capel Pitt teams in February: pic.twitter.com/2DMbQI7izo
— Dan Sostek (@dan_sostek) February 8, 2022
Late-season collapses have killed any momentum that the program has had over the last few years, and right now, sitting on a four-game skid, the Panthers look as though they may once again fall down hard.
NOW OR NEVER FOR PITT
Pitt sits at 8-16 and has just seven games remaining on its schedule.
The following are Pitt’s next seven opponents’ NET rankings, in order of schedule: 83, 126, 42, 152, 73, 10, 61.
While none, except Duke at No. 10, are all that impressively, high, Pitt is ranked all the way down at No. 193. Every opponent, from here on out, is going to be a challenge for the Panthers to come out with a victory. At the moment, Pitt’s most likely wins look like No. 126 NC State (Saturday, Feb. 12 at home) and No. 152 Georgia Tech (Saturday, Feb. 19 at home). If the Panthers cannot pull out those two home victories, it is going to be a real challenge to get to double digit wins for this team.