Coming into this second-round matchup, Pitt and Georgetown faced very different circumstances. For Pitt, it was pretty much do or die; they needed to leave everything on the court for a chance to make the Big Dance. Georgetown was a top-15 team, had an at-large bid locked up and had larger aspirations; a loss here would’ve been bad, but it would also give the team a chance to rest up for next weekend.
Georgetown was a solid favorite in Vegas but as long as Pitt doesn’t shoot itself out of the game, it should have been a one possession game throughout. Well, incase you missed it, the Panthers did nothing BUT shoot themselves out of this one and ended their season with a 64-52 embarrassment in Round 2 of the Big East Tournament.
Early on Pitt’s offense looked good; they made key passes to get good looks and knocked down shots from outside. Unfortunately for Pitt, like always, when they hit threes early they tend to get lazy on offense and continue to shoot from the behind the arc. After scoring on three of the first four possessions the offense went cold…ice cold.
Defensively Pitt was strong from the start, forcing the Hoyas to take tough shots but struggled to rebound, giving the Hoyas easy second chance points. And Georgetown’s two leading rebounders, Henry Sims and Otto Porter made Pitt pay by going for 20 points apiece.
Ashton Gibbs was the only Panther to hit double digits and he had 14. It would’ve been nice for Tray Woddall to help out just a little bit. He scored all of 9 points and had just 2 assists…just sad really.
Mental lapses undermined overall solid play on both ends for Pitt. One positive for the Panthers has been their short term memories; no matter how many bricks they shoot they have no problem continuing to fire away. It finally paid off when Gibbs got hot and scored nine-straight points.
On the defensive end, Georgetown did a lot to help out the Panthers. Sims was playing strong down low but the Hoyas caught Pitt’s disease and missed a ton of threes.
With the first half coming to close, Pitt hit an ugly stretch that led to a 16-2 Hoyas run that resulted in a 31-23 Georgetown lead. At one point Georgetown began to press the Panthers, leading to an incredible turnover-foul-technical-foul combo. Pitt didn’t score the final four minutes of the half and strung together bad passes, bad shots, and an impressive collection of bricks.
Apparently at half time Jamie Dixon convinced the team that it was easier to score inside the orange painted area than from outside; Pitt scored three straight buckets inside before Georgetown hit a three immediately returning Pitt to the strategy of shooting bricks from outside.
Pitt actually defended well for a while but as usual, they broke down and gave up an easy basket. On offense, Pitt continued to go to its bread and butter play of killing the entire clock, rotating the ball around the arc and then settling for a contested three or long two…that didn’t work. If that’s your best play fine, but why waste all the time when your down eight points?
With 10 minutes left in the second, Sims finally picked up his first foul; just another huge indicator of Pitt’s absolute avoidance of the interior. On the other end, the wheels officially fell off. Back-to-back great plays inside by Sims (he made it look easy because the Panthers had pretty much stopped trying at that point) and the lead was stretched to 52-39. The game was over and Pitt could begin to sweat their NIT selection.
In the end, it was the same problems that doomed Pitt all year that killed them in this one. They’re just not talented enough offensively to create, they don’t execute or have any plays to create, and they can’t hit shots consistently. Defensively they can’t seem to put together a full effort. If they defend outside well, they give up something inside. If they are defending inside and outside they allow offensive rebounds and put backs.
In prior years it has been much easier to take Pitt’s defeats. You could always chalk it up to a lack of execution here or there, this year things are a lot more bleak because the team just isn’t good and with most of these players returning, things don’t look good for the future.