There aren’t sufficient words to describe that pile left inside the Pete last night.
Just when we thought that the loss to DePaul was the bottom of the barrel, this group plumbs new depths. I’ve disagreed with many who have been saying that this team lacks heart, but after last night I can’t do that any longer. Losing this badly. Getting destroyed in the final 24 minutes with barely a whimper. The body language said it all by the end. They have given up.
Where do you start? How do you fix what is so clearly in these players’ heads. Even if you accept the premise that most of these players are role players, it does not explain how badly they played. They have talked about being angry about the losses. About fixing things. Turning it around. Instead they keep going further backwards. Not even getting angry out there. Just frustrated and despondent.
The first thing that jumped out at me when I sat down to watch this game was how indecisive the entire team looked on offense. Right from the start. Afraid to take a shot. Too much hesitation. The shooting woes of the past month weighing heavily on all of them.
Rutgers continued the trend of opposing teams crowding players on the perimeter — especially Ashton Gibbs — any breathing room Pitt which contributed to the immediate stagnation on offense. Rutgers did not fear the Pitt guards trying to penetrate off the dribble, and by staying so tight they made it harder for the perimeter players to move the ball inside. That inability to get the frontcourt involved on the offense is a huge factor in the how and why this team has fallen completely apart.
I’ve mentioned before that this year’s team is one that lets offensive frustration give way to defensive lapses. Or in this game, surrender on all fronts. The breakaways in the first half leading to comically bad blown scoring opportunities at point-blank range, were so clearly the mental toll of knowing that they needed these easy buckets and once they blew them only compounded the problems.
With the frontcourt not at all a factor on the offensive end, the rebounding suffered. Taylor and Zanna especially. The two combined for 5 rebounds the entire game. Nas grabbed 9 rebounds (3 offensive, 6 defensive) but only 1 offensive rebound in the second half — despite Pitt tossing up plenty of bricks. Rutgers had a 25-23 rebounding advantage at halftime. They destroyed Pitt on the boards in the second half, 26-12.
The other problem with the inability to get the ball to the frontcourt players, was that on the rare occasion that one of them did get the ball you knew they were going to put it up. They would rush it. Take a bad shot in traffic. Not even look to pass it back out. The frustration of not being involved in the offense gave way to selfish actions that only made things worse.
Unlike the other games in this collapse, Pitt took itself out of the game before the end of the 1st half. With under 4:30 left in the first half, Pitt only trailed 19-17. Rutgers was able to go on a 12-2 run to end the half. Pitt turned the ball over twice, shot 0-5 (2 points came on FTs) and only grabbed 3 rebounds (all defensive). Rutgers by contrast shot 4-8 (2-3 on 3s) and grabbed 5 rebounds — including the sequence to end the half where Rutgers got 3 opportunities to score in the final 5 seconds as Pitt couldn’t even tip the ball away from the basket.
Everything is a mess. Even their passing is horrid. Slow, looping passes or weak bounce passes that give defenses plenty of time to recover.
This has moved way beyond Woodall’s injury and Gibbs being forced to play out of position. This is a team that simply is not tough enough mentally.
I never thought I would type that.