Another game, another lackluster showing for the nationally-ranked Pitt Panthers as they held on for a tight 73-69 win.
Things could have been worse, obviously – Long Beach State could have happened. But now with three consecutive poor performances, it’s almost getting to the point where we can question just how good this team might be.
Unfortunately, what will get lost a bit are the good performances Pitt got out of several players. Tray Woodall continued his strong play, dishing out ten assists for the third time this year and his block at the end of the game sealed the win. But what was perhaps the most encouraging was the play of two key bench players.
J.J. Moore had been off to a slow start this season, but finally showed glimpses of the player he was expected to be. He had nine points that came on three three-point shots and also added six rebounds.
Then there was freshman Khem Birch. The highly-touted Birch hadn’t done much of anything through Pitt’s first three contests, but in limited minutes tonight, he had two big baskets, seven rebounds, and four huge blocks. I’ve said repeatedly that Pitt doesn’t need him to come in and score a lot of points, and he was the leading rebounder for the Panthers tonight. If he keeps that up, he’ll continue to get minutes.
Now to the bad news: Pitt was uncharacteristically sloppy tonight, turning the ball over a whopping 21 times. Blame it on whatever you want – a mediocre opponent, Thanksgiving break, etc., but the team just didn’t show much fire most of the night. Even star Ashton Gibbs was off, shooting a dismal 3-15 from the field.
These types of efforts clearly won’t fly in the Big East, which may be the toughest conference in the nation. Pitt won tonight, but showed they have much work to do.
For more post-game reaction, check out SB Nation’s Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.