In times, past I’ve referenced a 1985 hit song by Atlantic Starr, and I believe that after watching this disastrous Pitt loss to Louisville that it applies to this game too.
“It’s a fragile situation; it could fall apart at any time
And none would be the wiser, Except you and I… If you’re heat isn’t in it, why can’t you tell me so…”
To be honest, there may not be some points of this song that doesn’t apply to Pitt, but metaphorically it does regarding their heart. When a team loses 101-51 in front of their home fans, their heart certainly wasn’t in it. Such is the case with Pitt in this game. And you better believe that this is a fragile situation, but it’s not about to fall apart, it already has.
A friend of mine told me that the Panthers season was over after their stunning loss to the Duquesne Dukes back in December (and if I’m correct, I referenced this song after that game too). I didn’t believe him because the season was still young, F Jamel Artis didn’t play because of a suspension, and Pitt underestimated a team that they had beaten for 15 straight seasons. They led by 10, got cocky and then when the Dukes outplayed them, Pitt’s heart went out of the PPG Paints Arena.
But in this game, it seemed like the Panthers didn’t bring their hearts to the Petersen Events Center. Whatever heart they had was when they played Miami on Saturday and even then, they got destroyed 72-46. But to lose by 50 points is just an ugly disaster. Despite Pitt showing signs of life after that loss (which includes upsetting nationally-ranked Virginia) I now stand corrected and agree with my friend.
This loss is the second worst in school history. Only a 106-13 travesty to Westminster was worse) at one point, it seemed like Louisville was going to score over 110 points, but I guess Head Coach Rick Pitino didn’t want to ‘run’ up the score on Pitt, no? What a nice guy that Pitino is.
And speaking of Head Coaches. Apparently, Pitt head man Kevin Stallings couldn’t stomach much more that he decided to leave the game early, as he was ejected by the officials early in the second half. Not exactly sure what happened, but play had stopped, and a red-faced Stallings was about to come after one of the officials the same way Philadelphia Flyers G Ron Hextall ran after Pittsburgh Penguins RW Robbie Brown did in a playoff game back in 1989. If the other officials didn’t intervene, Stallings might’ve decked him. What an example to be in front of his team.
Which leads to what I think is wrong with Pitt. We know they’re just kids and there’s a case where they still need to mature, grow and learn, but when a team plays this bad, especially at home, it’s proof that the coach has lost the team. We knew that it would be a rough transition for the kids because all they’ve known is Jaime Dixon, who arguably is the school’s greatest basketball coach. What they were saying was after their 2nd-round loss in the NCAA Tournament that it was time for Dixon to go and for Pitt to find some ‘new blood’ that can bring out the team’s offensive talents, especially in seniors Mike Young and Jamel Artis the team’s top leading scorers.
The players seemed happy because they had a new offense and couldn’t wait to display it on the court, and it has produced some decent results as Artis and Young have scored 30 or more points in several games, in fact Artis scored 43 in the first loss to Louisville. Senior Sheldon Jeter scored 20 in a game, and even junior Ryan Luther scored 20 in a game.
But the issue wasn’t the offense, but the defense. I’ve said before that their offense was like Loyola Marymount’s Run-and Shoot offense from the early 90’s. (although that team was much better than Pitt) the focus was on offense, but not on defense. Here’s an example: Their highest scoring game was a 112-106 win vs. Marshall. In their 88-76 upset of Virginia, it took overtime to get it done.
We knew for a fact that as Young and Artis went, so did the Panthers and right now it seems like those young men have lost their heart and soul…and so have the Panthers.
Young finished with 12 points (which led the team) and Artis finished with 9. The team shot only 22.5% from the floor and from 3-point range?? 3-22. What about the 3-point masters in Artis and Sophomore Cameron Johnson? Artis was 1-4 and Johnson was 0-4. And to think I compared Artis to the NBA’s Chuck Person. I may have to retract that comparison now.
I say this with all Sincerity: Pitt’s best performance was when they led 2-0 to open the game. They stole the ball from Louisville and then Artis hit a jumper that caused the Oakland Zoo crowd to rip up their Pitt News newspapers and toss them in jubilation, a habit that they usually do when Pitt scores their first points. But after the Cardinals tied the game and eventually took the lead, Pitt was about as close to them as Pittsburgh is to Los Angeles.
At halftime, it was 51-18. Yeah, it was that bad. I was walking back to my seat and saw Pitt assistant coach Ontario Lett throw his clipboard on his seat in disgust. Apparently, there were no halftime speeches by Stallings, at least not enough to motivate the team.
After the game, Stallings had this to say; “That’s about as disappointing of a performance that I could possibly imagine. A lot of things I could say, that I’d like to say, but that was embarrassing.” I totally agree. Stallings also said this “Ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s my responsibility to have them prepared to play better, harder and smarter.”
Couldn’t agree more, Coach. Now what are you going to do. Your team is now 12-8 and 1-6 in the ACC. How does your team break this 4-game losing streak? We have until Saturday to find out as they put on their black to face Clemson. Let’s hope it’s not because they’re dressing for a funeral, because it appears that their 2016-17 and their NCAA Tournament hopes appear to be as good as dead. But one victory will at least end the losing streak. And then they just need to take it one game at a time. But for that to happen, they need to get their heart back.
Please e-mail Ray at email@example.com
Follow him @urbanmediaRay on twitter