Jeff Capel believes his crew has an opportunity to be good this season. From particular person standouts to total crew development, Pitt’s third-year head coach has constructed a crew that may be aggressive each time it takes the courtroom in an ACC sport.
However that doesn’t imply the Panthers can take any opponent frivolously or let up after they get a giant lead, which was the case on Saturday night time, as Pitt dropped to 8-Three total and 4-2 within the convention after a 12-point second-half lead became a one-point loss to the beforehand winless-in-league-play Deacons.
“We didn’t have the vitality that’s required to have an opportunity to turn into an excellent crew,” mentioned Capel.
The issue is, that quote wasn’t from Saturday night time’s loss.
It was from the season-opening loss to St. Francis (Pa.), when Pitt sleepwalked to an 80-70 defeat in opposition to a crew that has solely gained two video games within the 10 it has performed since beating Pitt.
Which is to say, the difficulty shouldn’t be new. In actual fact, Capel was bemoaning his crew’s lack of constant vitality a yr in the past, too, when the Panthers blew the momentum of a season-opening win in opposition to Florida State with a loss to Nicholls State just a few days later.
“I’m extremely disenchanted in us,” Capel mentioned that night time in November, 2019, “and after I say us, that’s our employees – clearly it begins with me – and our crew. We didn’t have the vitality that was worthy of profitable all through the sport.”
In each of these situations, Pitt bounced again. After shedding to Nicholls State, the Panthers beat each remaining nonconference opponent aside from West Virginia. This yr, they responded to the St. Francis loss by profitable their subsequent 5, together with the convention opener at Miami, earlier than shedding to Louisville in a sport that was performed with out main scorers Justin Champagnie and Au’Diese Toney.
And after the Louisville loss, Pitt put collectively a three-game profitable streak: beating Syracuse in a home-and-home after which holding off Duke on the Petersen Occasions Heart on Tuesday night time.
That final win created some severe momentum for this system, which had a professional shot at breaking into the highest 25 – so long as it didn’t have a letdown at Wake Forest. The Deacons had battled this season, however they have been nonetheless 0-6 in convention video games getting into Saturday. If Pitt’s gamers approached that sport with the extent of vitality they’d for Duke, a win ought to have been the anticipated end result.
And early on, the Panthers did simply that. Wake Forest sophomore ahead Ismael Massoud was on hearth within the first half, hitting 5-of-5 from three to maintain the Deacons aggressive, however Pitt was greater than as much as the problem. Within the first half, the Panthers shot 61.5% from the ground, hit 4-of-Eight three-pointers, made all 9 of their free throws and outrebounded Wake Forest 15-Eight to take a seven-point lead into halftime.
Pitt even pushed the result in 12 within the second half and appeared to be in command of the sport. However whereas the Deacons stored draining three’s – they completed with 15 on 32 makes an attempt – the Panthers fell off. They have been sloppy with the basketball, lacked the required vitality to defend past the arc and received outrebounded within the ultimate 20 minutes.
Earlier than it was over, Wake Forest stretched its result in 10, and whereas Pitt fought again and Xavier Johnson had a shot at a game-winner as time expired, the ball went off the rim and the Panthers received the loss they’d earned over the ultimate 18 minutes of the sport.
“This sucks, the truth that we carry out like this,” Capel mentioned after the sport. “Not simply the loss however – and once more, that’s not taking something away from Wake. They have been large. They have been large. However we weren’t deserving of profitable. And even when that shot would have gone in, I’d have felt that manner. I’d have been happier, however we weren’t deserving of profitable by a number of the issues that we did.”
Now Pitt is left searching for solutions once more. The Panthers confirmed actual promise and enchancment in beating Syracuse, Duke and Miami, and even of their loss to Louisville. However the lack of ability to keep up a excessive stage of play – pushed by the dearth of vitality and urgency that Capel has bemoaned a number of occasions over the course of the final two seasons – is a priority for a crew with sufficient expertise to firmly be within the high half of the convention.
“We have now to have the ability to deal with success like mature individuals and be hungry for extra and never be happy and perceive what it means to point out up each day,” Capel mentioned. “The identical issues I mentioned after Duke. I talked about how we confirmed up – everybody needs to ask after that sport, and it was two video games in a row, what have you ever finished? We’ve proven up, we’ve had an edge, we’ve had that. And for the primary time in a very long time, we didn’t have it.”
Pitt will get an opportunity to bounce again in opposition to North Carolina on Tuesday night time on the Petersen Occasions Heart.