In their third ACC game of the year, the Pitt Panthers faced the Virginia Tech Hokies in a 81-67 loss on the road. For the second consecutive game this season Kevin Stallings started five freshmen. Once again, Pittsburgh was without their senior, Ryan Luther, who’s 12.7 ppg leads the team. The Pitt Panthers (8-8, 0-3) have lost three straight.
Early in the second half , it appeared Pitt might win their first ACC game of the year. With 12:37 left, ,the Panthers tied the game at 51-51, with the momentum on their side. However, they went scoreless in the next four minutes. In their first two ACC games, the Panthers kept the scores close early and then went on long scoring droughts leading to the games blowing up.
Pittsburgh’s 3-point shooting (12-26, 46%) kept the game close. With 6:16 left, Pitt trailed 61-58 after a Marcus Carr buzzer beating three pointer. In the final six minutes the Panthers went on another scoring drought. Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s three 3-point plays helped the Hokies finish the game on a 20-9 run.
In today’s game, Pittsburgh was clearly missing Ryan Luther. His replacements, Terrell Brown and Kene Chukwuka, combined for just six points. Chukwuka finished with just one point, his first since December 5th. They also allowed Kerry Blackshear Jr. to have a career high 31 points on 12 of 16 from the field. Several times, Blackshear caught the ball in the paint with Pitt defenders out of position allowing a wide open dunk.
There is some hope after today’s loss. Parker Stewart continues to have the hot hand. Stewart finished with 12 points and has made 9 of 16 of his 3-pointers in ACC play. With Luther out, the Panthers will need to find scoring from elsewhere. Jared Wilson-Frame came off the bench with 20 of Pitt’s 23 bench points.
However, Pitt’s lack of experience continues to show. With five freshmen starting there is going to be growing pains. Pitt had 17 turnovers and several of them led to Hokie breakaways with no Panther nearby. The Panthers are also missing a player like Luther, who can get them out of a scoring drought and create interior scoring.
Next week, Pittsburgh will host #2 Duke. Before the game...
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