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December 6, 2017

Pitt Survives Its Lack of Defense

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 8:39 am

Clearly, I underestimated the ability of this young Pitt basketball team to play down to the level of its competition.

Pitt may have won four in a row, but there is an inconsistency even in these wins, as this one and making it past High Point illustrated. Whether it is effort, coaching, youth and/or talent.

Mount St. Mary’s was as close to assuming a gimmee even for Pitt this year. The Mountaineers are the worst team on Pitt’s schedule to this point. Yet, Pitt gave them a huge opportunity to get the win.

Coach Kevin Stallings took the bullet mostly for this one.

“I guess I’m a little bit disappointed in our performance, but I’m really more disappointed in my coaching,” he said. “I could tell before the game I didn’t have (players) where they needed to be.”

Stallings said his young team must play with an edge — a sharpness, an air of confidence — to survive this season.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t play hard. We played hard,” he said. “We just weren’t on edge. We had an edge Friday night (in a a victory against Duquesne), and it didn’t let up for 40 minutes.”

Tuesday night, after scoring the game’s first seven points and taking a 31-24 lead into intermission, Pitt’s defense fell apart in the second half.

“I thought we did do well defensively in stretches, but I thought the second half was abysmal,” he said.

“We just weren’t locked in defensively in the second half, and I take responsibility for that,” Stallings said.

Mount St. Mary’s came into the game shooting just over 31% on 3s. Against Pitt, they were close to 50% (13-27) as Pitt’s defense was slow to react to ball movement and shooters were consistently getting wide open looks from outside.

Some of that was by virtue of their jitterbug of a guard, Junior Robinson. Despite being only 5-5, he was all over the court and constantly driving to the basket with great success. Marcus Carr has many positive qualities but defense at this point is not one of them, as he was unable to keep Robinson in front of him most of the game.

Carr is a wonderful talent at point guard. He has a strong offensive game, and has already embraced a leadership role. That said, his defense and disturbing sloppiness with the ball are areas of concern — and where he desperately needs to improve.

Ryan Luther had a bad offensive game, but did do the one thing he should in that situation. Get after the ball. He grabbed 16 rebounds including 8 on the offensive side.

There was, as we have seen, lots to like on the offensive side of things. Shamiel Stevenson was right there with Carr for offensive production. Kham Davis is rounding into form with shooting to match the excitement coaches and even beat writers expressed about him.

But the defensive lapses. Oh, those were hard to watch as Pitt frittered away a 15 point lead with 9 minutes left in the second half.

Their defense, like their team as a whole, stepped up when it needed to, helping it avoid what would have been a crushing loss for a team that seemingly had figured out some of its woes.

Still, that edge that Stallings believed his team lacked was interpreted differently by some of his players, namely junior wing Jared Wilson-Frame, who believed the defensive struggles in the second half were due to a lack of effort.

“I think we just have to mentally tell ourselves to keep it consistent,” Wilson-Frame said. “When we’re trying and we’re actually locked in and mentally focused, there’s no turning back from it. Nobody really gets out of it. But when a couple of people do, it’s a whole team thing. It’s really all of us staying in it together.”

Overconfidence should never be an issue with this team.





20 comments

Wvu game may b ugly

Comment by Steve 12.06.17 @ 8:55 am

Nice to see Stallings take responsibility for a change. There is some talent on this team, if they learn to play defense, they might even win some games next year. O fer in the ACC this year.

Nice to see a little individual talent last night, but that was about it.

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 9:26 am

Wow, fan support was even worse than I expected, especially the ZOO with about 50 at most. Really got to be hurting the budget.

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 9:28 am

My section was near empty, and guys that never miss a game are gone in droves.

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 9:30 am

For years Pitt BOT and administration could do anything they wanted….tear down the stadium, change the name to Pittsburgh, hire then re-hire a despised AD etc.

Finally with the atrocious hire and PT Barnum selling of Stallings, the fans have had enough and voted with their feet!

Still, the Admins tone is “ ok don’t come to the Pete”. It’s your loss. I have no idea what it will take to get the admin of their respective butts, but the ultimate losers are all of us alums who still actually care about the image if Pitt.

Comment by Dan 72 12.06.17 @ 10:50 am

There is 100% a foundation here. They need some top 50 (top 100 at a bare minimum) added to the roster. With the transfers coming in next season, I can definitely see how a tournament like the NIT may be within reach … that’s if, and only if, this team continues to improve. The ACC schedule is going to be rough … and a potential confidence killer. Losing is contagious and a culture killer. How do you find positives and confidence in a losing season? Stallings will have to answer that question to a) keep his job b) turn this group into winners

Comment by Tossing Thabeets 12.06.17 @ 10:57 am

It looks to me like Stallings can recruit ok, but so far it doesn’t look like he can coach. That is based on his losing record in the SEC, his failure to get much out of last year’s seniors or what the team looks like so far this year.

I also don’t buy the Vanderbilt is tough recruiting bs, it doesn’t seem to hamper Duke or Stanford.

He will never win without solid defensive play.

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 11:16 am

Pitt has at least made the effort with Narduzzi.

Pretty sure they made a huge mistake with Stallings and are between a rock and a hard place.

The Pete was extremely depressing last night, what will Saturday be like?

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 11:19 am

GC – I agree. And we have quite a contrast between Narduzzi and Stallings. Narduzzi just completed his 3rd year as a HC, and while most Pitt people agree he holds promise and agree it makes sense to extend him, his future is truly an unknown due to his lack of history, so a contract extension is a calculated risk. In Stallings’ case, he has the history to look at as you summarized above, and frankly it’s not promising. Best case scenario he one day gets this program to mediocre level, but I personally doubt he can even do that.

Comment by 1618mt 12.06.17 @ 11:27 am

The problem with Stallings is even if he has top recruits on this team say like 3 top 150 recruits coming in next season he will still have a mediocre team because he is not a good coach. It doesn’t matter if he recruits top players the problem is his coaching.

Comment by PittPanFan 12.06.17 @ 11:57 am

Here is a story from last night. After the first half, I say to my buddy, let’s go get a drink, cause it was pretty boring. We go to the club, get our drinks and go up to the balcony to watch the game, standing by one of the tables. By the way the clunb is almost completely empty. The drink was pretty good so we agree to have another. We go back up to the balcony and this time I suggest we take a seat.

The usher says you cannot sit there without a ticket. Even though,the section is 90% empty and we are practically the only ones buying drinks we can’t sit down. Just another microcosm of how stupid Pitt is. Sorry, but they should be kissing my ass for being there, I didn’t say anything because the usher is just following orders but what a joke.

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 11:57 am

By the way, I am a 67 year old letterman but they can’t show any courtesy cause rules are rules.

Another pair of season tickets lost for next year.

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 12:02 pm

Afraid WVU will fill the Pete Saturday and that it will be like a road game for us. Will not look good.

Comment by frank md 12.06.17 @ 12:56 pm

Mt saint marys had 9 freshmen, so there’s no excuse.

Comment by alcofan 12.06.17 @ 12:59 pm

GC – That is an embarrassment and disrespectful to a Letterwinner.

Exactly why we are who we are.

Comment by Upittbaseball 12.06.17 @ 1:55 pm

GC. My heart goes out to you. Wish this was an isolated event but it’s been going on for all of my 67 years on this earth at Pitt. If there’s a right way and a wrong way to treat alums, Pitt will choose the wrong way 99.9% of the time.

It is a disgrace how they treat us! Especially when we give no small amount of $$ to the program.

Comment by Dan 72 12.06.17 @ 6:24 pm

Thanks guys, buy it really isn’t about me. It is about poor customer service and being tone deaf regarding the loss of season ticket holders.

It doesn’t cost them anything to let anyone sit anywhere a seat is open after halftime. Stupid is as stupid does. No goodwill at all.

It makes you wonder if anyone has half a brain in the whole athletic department.

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 8:58 pm

I know many will disagree but the empty Pete shows why renting Heinz is a good deal. Pitt still has to pay for all of the security details, ushers and Vendors at Heinz even with crowds of 2000. Fixed costs have to be killing them right now.

They pay Heinz per capita so small crowds don’t break the bank.

It would be interesting to see how much revenue is down from Jamie’s hey day.

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 9:05 pm

Should read Vendors at the Pete with crowds of 2000

Comment by gc 12.06.17 @ 9:06 pm

Ironically moron barnes ran dixon out to save$ fans voted with their feet costing at least 5 million a year in lost revenue. Barnes is a complete incompetent.

Comment by Steve 12.06.17 @ 10:16 pm

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