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Pitt Basketball

Five Takeaways: Saturday’s Loss Was Huge Missed Opportunity for Pitt

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PITTSBURGH — After extending its win streak to three games with a convincing road win over North Carolina on Wednesday, Pitt had a chance to continue its momentum with a win over Georgia Tech, who came into the game in last place in the entire ACC.

Pitt had everything on its side heading into Saturday’s game for the first time in a long time, with the biggest crowd of the season showing up at the Pete, Senior Night festivities before the game, and the winning streak. Everything was in place for Capel and the Panthers to come out strong and extend the streak to four.

However, from the very start, the Panthers came out sluggish in the first half of Saturday’s game, and according to head coach Jeff Capel and forward Mo Gueye, they could have seen this start coming from the moment the team entered the gym.

“I just think that we kind of walked into this game a little bit lackadaisical,” Gueye said after the game. “I could see it in our warmups. The energy from the past three games just wasn’t there, so that first half wasn’t really surprising. It’s frustrating because throughout the whole entire season our biggest thing was trying to have consistency. We put things together and got three games in a row. This should have been the fourth but we took a whole half to wake up, so it’s frustrating.”

“Thursday we didn’t do much,” Capel said after the game. “Obviously, we didn’t get back until late, and we had guys who played heavy minutes, so Thursday was basically a mental day. We walked through a couple of things offensively that we thought could be successful against the zone and then a couple of things defensively we just started talking about how we want to defend them. Some of the things that we needed to have our antenna up with and a sense of urgency for. Friday was more the day before a game, but I didn’t feel the same energy that we had in preparation obviously for North Carolina. Then, just the way they play. The zone, the switching zones, the zone can switch within the possession, and what it does, it requires us to think. So I was really, really concerned coming into this game, and I think I had a right to be unfortunately.”

While the team has played six games in 14 days with a short rotation, at this point in the season, it is hard to imagine coming out slow for the first 35 minutes of the game when all of those were on Pitt’s side.

“Players have to do it too,” Capel continued. “They have to listen and they have to be able to move on. We talked about it extensively but we didn’t do it. It’s not just that we didn’t do it, I didn’t do a good enough job of getting us prepared for that, so I have to figure out different ways. I am disappointed in me, I am disappointed in us, and just, we had an unbelievable opportunity and we didn’t capitalize on it.”

STATS – WHAT WENT WRONG?

While Pitt won the rebounding battle inside, the Panthers failed to defeat the Yellow Jackets in nearly every other major statistic in the 68-62 loss.

Shooting-wise, Georgia Tech shot 46% from the field to Pitt’s 41%. The Jackets also drained 33% of their threes, while Pitt made just 25%. Free throws? More of the same. Georgia Tech made 91%, while Pitt made 75%.

Some of the major statistical victories for Georgia Tech revolved around turnovers. The Jackets forced Pitt to turn the ball over 16 times, while they turned it over 11 times. Off of those turnovers, Georgia Tech turned them into 19 points, while Pitt scored just six points off TOs.

Lastly, and perhaps the most important figure of the night, Georgia Tech scored 17 points on fast breaks, while Pitt scored just four. Whether it was after a missed shot on the offensive end or just simply more effort from the Jackets, Pitt struggled to get back on defense all night, which repeatedly led to open looks and often times easy layups.

“We didn’t play with any force,” Capel added. “We didn’t contest elbow, we didn’t do a good job of that, that’s something we talked about. A lot of their stuff is run through their bigs at the elbows, and they were able to just kind of get lay ups off of cuts and we didn’t have active help side. Those are the things that we had been doing better, it’s just we didn’t have it there tonight. The communication wasn’t great for us in that area. When we missed shots at times, they were able just to leak out and get easy baskets there, which has been uncharacteristic. The two teams we played prior were probably two of the better teams in transition and we did an excellent job in both of those games in getting back and making them a half-court team. We didn’t do that tonight.”

GUEYE DAZZLES ON SENIOR NIGHT

On Saturday, Pitt celebrated its three seniors – Onye Ezeakudo, Chayce Smith, and Mo Gueye – before the game in a ceremony.

While Smith has not played this season and Ezeakudo logged just over six minutes in the loss, Gueye had arguably his best game of his Pitt career on his night.

Gueye shined from the moment the game began, scoring 12 points in the first 12 minutes and grabbing three early rebounds.

Gueye continued his offensive excellence in the second half, following an early Hugley dunk with a layup of his own and regaining momentum for Pitt, who trailed by 9 at the half. The graduate transfer finished the night with a career-high 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting, playing all 40 minutes, grabbing 12 rebounds, blocking one shot, grabbing a steal, and dishing out one assist.

“It’s been great, honestly,” Gueye said about his year at Pitt. “Coming into this year I had no idea what to expect. The only thing I was really thinking is the fact that I am playing in the ACC, so the competition will be better. But to come here, to play for a team like this, to play for coaches like this, to play for a crowd like this in a city like this, it was beyond my expectations and I am just grateful to be here. Grateful for the fact that I can go out here and play in front of all these people, put on this jersey. I am just really grateful and I appreciate the city of Pittsburgh.”

STRUGGLING GUARDS

In Saturday night’s loss, guards Jamarius Burton, Ithiel Horton, and Femi Odukale combined to go just 4 for 25 from the field for 17 points between the three of them.

Whether it was Georgia Tech’s complex zone defenses, or just poor shooting nights, the guards failed to make a big difference on the offensive end in the loss.

“He just didn’t make shots, he took 11 of them, and he didn’t make them,” Capel said about Burton. “I don’t know if he’s a little bit fatigued, tired, whatever it is, he didn’t do much on practice on Friday because of soreness, so, he just didn’t have the rhythm. None of our guards did. The zone kept us off balance, and we ha d difficulty finding spots, finding areas. We got down to short clock several times throughout the game. I thought when we moved it and shared it and ball-faked and we did the things that we talked about doing, we were able to get good looks, clean looks, but we didn’t do enough of that tonight.”

It’s been said all year and it rings true even now: Pitt is still searching for consistency. The Panthers are a relatively young team, with five of their eight players that played in Saturday’s game having at least two years of eligibility left, but at this point in the year, consistency seems far from achieved in any way.

Night in and night out, the Panthers have either had big nights from their bigs, big nights from their guards, or strong defensive performances. However, very few times this year they have put all of those together.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Pitt is now 11-17 (6-11 ACC) with three games remaining on the season before it heads to Brooklyn for the ACC Tournament.

The Panthers will take on three of the top four teams in the conference in these last three games, with Miami coming to the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday, Feb. 22, Duke coming to town on Tuesday, March 1, and Notre Dame playing host to the Panthers on Saturday, March 5.

Those three teams rank No. 67, No. 9, and No. 58 according to Kenpom.com, while Pitt sits all the way down at No. 170.

Pitt lost by just one point to Notre Dame back in late December, but since that game, the Irish have gone 12-3 since that matchup and have moved all the way up to second in the conference.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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7 months ago

Pitt needs more players like Mo. And I’m not talking about his height or anything basketball related. What a special young man.

Dukes

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