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Pitt Laments Wasted First-Half Opportunities in Loss to Vanderbilt



NASHVILLE, Tenn. — To the fans at Memorial Gym and those watching at home, Pitt’s 75-74 loss to Vanderbilt on Wednesday night came down to the final seconds.

Pitt coach Jeff Capel knew better.

The Panthers might have had opportunities to win the game in the final minute, but their best chance to knock off the Commodores had come and went long before the second half even started.

Pitt shot the lights out in the first 20 minutes, but 11 first-half turnovers and poor defensive rebounding helped keep Vanderbilt in the game, leading to a tied halftime score. When the game reached the final minutes, the Panthers’ inability to build an early lead proved costly. Instead of protecting a lead, Pitt had to battle shot for shot, allowing the Commodores to win the game with the final possession.

“In the first half, we had 11 turnovers and they had 11 offensive rebounds,” Capel said. “They were shooting around 37% from the field, so our first shot defense was good. We did all those things, but turnovers and 11 offensive rebounds meant they were able to stay in the game.

“We were lucky that it was tied at halftime, even with the way that we shot the basketball. That’s the first time that we’ve been in a position where we’ve gotten outrebounded like that.”

The offensive boards meant that Vanderbilt (5-4) could fire at will with its outside shooting, knowing that it had about a 50/50 shot of grabbing the rebound and extending their possession. Pitt (6-4) eventually did a better job with its rebounding in the second half, but by then, Vanderbilt had built its confidence.

“We did a great job of getting offensive rebounds around the basket, but we didn’t convert a lot of them,” Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse said. “But the fact that we were getting there and getting our hands on those balls proved well for us down the stretch.

“If we don’t have something where we can put it right back, we’re taught to kick it out and look for a 3-point shooter. Some of your best 3-point shots can come off offensive rebounds and kicking it out, or even kicking it out and moving it over one more to get a really clean look.”

The Commodores got several in the second half, which led to them starting to knock down shots. In the second half, Vanderbilt drilled six of 13 attempts from behind the arc, while Pitt’s shooting cooled off. By the time the Panthers raised their level back to the play they showed in the first half, less than four minutes remained, and Pitt had to chase the game to get itself in front.

The Panthers did, but by waiting as long as they did, they left the door open for Vanderbilt to win the game. After taking a lead less than 90 seconds into the half, Pitt didn’t lead again until seven minutes remained and didn’t display the necessary intensity until after the last television timeout.

“The fight that we had in the last four minutes is what we’ve got to be able to maintain for 40 minutes,” Pitt guard Nelly Cummings said. “We’ve showed what we can do, so we’ve got to maintain that over a full game. That’s who we are, and we’ve got to be who we are for 40 minutes. We tend to get away from who we are, but when we be who we are, we are tough, and we are that team that fought back.”

But the lesson Capel wants the Panthers to learn is to not put themselves in bad situations in the first place. For much of the second half, Capel tried to do anything he could do get the Panthers to clean up their mistakes and stop letting Vanderbilt beat them to loose balls. But until Pitt realized defeat was a possibility in the final four minutes, nothing really changed, causing the Panthers to waste their opportunity.

“It took us so long to adjust to them,” Capel said. “We talked about it at halftime, and we talked about it in the majority of the timeouts. Finally, it got through in the last 3:44, and we put ourselves in position to win.

“It wasn’t just the last play. It was plays throughout the game that we didn’t make at a high enough level, and it was really defensive rebounding. They made more hustle plays than us. I hate saying that, but that’s the truth.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Eric Payne
Eric Payne
1 year ago

I HATE monday mourning quartarbacks. Coach Capel gets a pass. Everybody has comments. Remember what Nellie Commings said, because he is RIGHT. This is only one loss.

Big time
Big time
1 year ago

This was a game that Pitt should have won. Pitt was getting dominated on the boards, especially in the first half. Jorge Diaz Graham should have played 12 to 15 minutes in that game along side of Federico and that game would have been there’s. Sats don’t lie and the key stat was being out numbered on the boards. that loss is squarely on Capel’s shoulders.

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