lair – 3-Pointers: Three takeaways from Pitt’s loss to Duke in the ACC tournament
The Pitt basketball team was eliminated from the ACC tournament Thursday with a 96-69 loss to Duke in Greensboro. The Panthers were 12-0 down before they even knew what hit them, and Duke drove to an easy win from there.
Here are three things that stood out in Pitt’s loss to Duke on Thursday.
Defensive problems continue
Duke really took off the pedal in the second half on Thursday against Pitt. The main rotation of the Duke players hit 86 points with about 8 minutes remaining on a Dariq Whitehead bucket, but the reserves for the Blue Devils only made four shots down the line or we’d be talking about how Pitt scored 100 points in a meaningful way admitted the March basketball game with their NCAA tournament resume not yet fully settled.
Talk about emptying.
Unfortunately for this Pitt team, this is nothing new and also a troubling late-season trend. The Panthers really relaxed defensively here, conceding over 80 points in four of their last five games. Duke edged Pitt for an even 48 points in each half on Thursday. That comes hot on the heels of the Panthers and allows a 15-win Georgia Tech team to score 50 points in the second half yesterday. At the end of the regular season, Notre Dame hung 88 on Pitt, and even in an attempt at victory, the Panthers collapsed, allowing Syracuse to score 82 points
It is not good.
Duke shows a dicey 62% from the field and they had 27 assists as a team with 36 field goals scored. The Blue Devils connected with 11 3-pointers for the game, but they also got everything they wanted with 46 points in the paint. The sustained runs early in each half came about because Pitt couldn’t keep up offensively, but also because the Panthers allowed far too many easy looks at the basket.
Duke couldn’t crush Pitt on the glass with a 30-25 advantage, but it was another game where the Panthers were passed. Pitt had trouble allowing offensive rebounds and second-chance points all along, and while Duke didn’t dominate there, that was yet another advantage they had to overcome on top of hot shooting.
Pitt needs to take shots to win, but they also need defense to sort of pull themselves together here next week. When you’re set up as a three-point shooting team, it’s easy to play from behind and come back, but even if the shots are coming, allowing a team to shoot 62% isn’t a team.
Not enough threesomes
Pitt needed to have at least 10 points to stand a chance in this instance, but as it turned out, they probably needed a lot more than that. The Panthers’ defensive problems at this point are well documented, and they’ll be fixed after 34 games in the Season not suddenly become better rebounders and defenders.
What made Pitt a good, even a tournament, team this season was his execution on offense. The Panthers can get hot with the best from the outside, and it just wasn’t in the cards on Thursday.
Duke blocked all lanes with her size Thursday, but sagged just enough on Pitt’s three-pointer to never let her get comfortable behind the arc. Duke’s defensive efforts resulted in forced, contested shots down the lane and never let Pitt get comfortable from three-point range.
Pitt came into this game with 299 three-pointers as a team in the first 32 games of the season. They averaged 9.3 makes from a deep game, good for second place in the ACC, but the Panthers shot just 5 of 18 against Duke on Thursday.
Blake Hinson came into this game as Pitt’s top scorer and averaged just under 16 points per game, but he was limited to just 5 points on Thursday. He was only 1-for-4 of three, with his lone hit at 9:41 in the second half to make it a 79-49 game. Pitt just won’t win many games with Hinson pinned to five points, but at the same time he hasn’t even caught the eye in the 19 minutes he played against Duke.
Greg Elliott scored four three-pointers in yesterday’s win over Georgia Tech, a welcome sight after going goalless against Miami, but he too has struggled to find cracks in Duke’s defence. Elliott finished with 2 points on a 1-on-4 shootout. He missed his only three-point attempt, which came when Pitt was 34 points behind in the second half.
Nike Sibande (3) and Jorge Diaz Graham (1) combined for four of Pitt’s five three-pointer scoring, more than what the starting lineup produced. Pitt is a team that thrives on three-point shooting, and it’s really no secret. Hinson and Elliott have both scored big goals this season, as has Nelly Cummings, and that will give them a chance to win in their next game. While it felt like defense played a bigger role in Thursday’s loss to Duke, Pitt just can’t win games with just five hits from deep.
The resume is posted
All Pitt can do at this point is wait. With Thursday’s loss, the Panthers are resting their NCAA tournament case with an overall record of 22-11. Pitt secured an ACC tournament win over Georgia Tech on Wednesday. It was a game that many said Pitt had to have in order to feel comfortable reaching the NCAA tournament.
Whether that’s true or not, we’ll see next Sunday.
The taste of losing to Duke by 27 points in the final game before Selection Sunday is sure to cause some concern for the Pitt team and their supporters.
However, the defeat should not overshadow the 22 wins before that. We always hear the NCAA tournament selection committee talk about all the “work,” and while Pitt’s last audition was a dud, it’s just a data point going into that decision.
The Panthers have a lot to offer as a beacon of hope for an NCAA tournament. They accumulated 14 ACC wins and struggled to win the league on the final day of the regular season. The Panthers have 7 combined quad 1 and quad 2 wins, including wins over ranked teams like Virginia and Miami. Pitt also secured seven road wins that year, including one over second-place Big Ten team, Northwestern.
There’s a lot of meat on the bone for Pitt’s NCAA tournament resume, but there are also some question marks. Pitt wasn’t particularly fond of the computer rankings this season, having heard quite a bit about that ‘quad-4’ loss to Florida State since then, and adding a loss to Notre Dame late in the year didn’t help either.
There is also the case of the ACC. The league hasn’t been highly regarded by the computer rankings either, and failing to reach the semifinals in a league with likely 5-6 bids is definitely close for Pitt.
Given the buzz saw Pitt faced at Duke, I’m not sure what had to happen for them to win the game, but it may have reassured some to keep it closer and more competitive before it went to Sunday goes. Pitt has probably done enough to make it to the NCAA tournament and we’ll know in a few days.
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