Just when you thought it couldn't get any uglier, it did. A four-game losing streak—Pitt's longest in 12 years—turned into a five-game losing streak, as Rutgers blew out the Panthers 62-39.
J.J. Moore came off the bench to lead Pitt with 10 points, the lone player in double-figures. Moore reached double-digits with a three-pointer as time expired. Ashton Gibbs finished with eight points followed by Nasir Robinson and J.J. Moore each with seven points. John Johnson added a pair of three-pointers to finish with six points.
"There's no way we can feel good about this game," head coach Jamie Dixon said. "We need to have results."
Rutgers was led by Eli Johnson and Dane Miller, who finished with 14 points and 11 points, respectively. Miller also had a game-high 12 rebounds, pacing the Scarlet Knights to a dominating performance on the glass.
It was Pitt's worst shooting performance of the season, by far—maybe even one of the worst in school history. The Panthers also got dominated in the paint, despite winning the turnover battle. Pitt shot just 12-57 (21.1%) for the game. Pitt started off 7-46 from the field, but made 5 of its final 11 shots of the game. Rutgers outscored Pitt in the paint, 32-14 and outrebounded Pitt 51-35.
"We've got to get better, and that's what we're going to do," Dixon added. "It starts with the shooting. It's catching up to us. They rhythm is just not there. Give Rutgers credit. They played hard."
The Pitt players talked about turnovers entering the game, and there was also a lot of talk about implementing a zone defense. Those two areas were far from the storylines of this loss, but the Panthers did force a pair of turnovers early. One came on a steal by Talib Zanna. Zanna completed the three-point play, after being fouled, giving the Panthers its first points of the game. Zanna made his second start in a row in place of Dante Taylor. Taylor entered the game at the 15:19 mark of the first half.
However, the Panthers were still troubled turning it over on their end. In the first five minutes alone, the Panthers turned the ball over five times. Rutgers opened up to a 9-3 lead. It wasn't the deciding factor, but little did they know, Rutgers had the game won at that point.
Moore hit a three-pointer at 12:55 to give the Panthers some life. They were still in it, down 9-5 at that point. Moore later added a pair of free throws to cut the gap to one, 9-8.
Pitt took the lead thanks to a technical on one of the Rutgers assistant coaches. Gibbs went to the line and converted his shots. Moore followed suit, and as a result of the technical, Pitt went up 12-11. To this point, the Panthers were 2-16 (12.5%) from the field with five turnovers. Sadly, though, that was the last time the Panthers would have a lead.
Rutgers regained a 16-14 lead, but it was still an ugly first half. Pitt was just 3-21 from the field in the first 13 minutes and only down two. Rutgers was shooting 7-17, not much better.
The Scarlet Knights pulled away for a 19-14 lead with just under five minutes left after a three-pointer from Jerome Seagears. Turnovers weren't haunting the Panthers at this point, as much as it was bad shooting. As this point, Pitt was 3-24 from the field, and just 1-7 from three-point range. Pitt got a boost from John Johnson at the 3:44 mark, with a three-pointer from the wing. Despite the continued shooting woes of the first half, Pitt trailed 19-17.
Rutgers opened up a 24-17 lead with a little over two minutes left in the half. Seagears—who was 3-3 from three-point range in the first half—hit one from the top of the key to give Rutgers its biggest lead. Miller added another three-pointer, to extend Rutgers' lead to 28-19. The Scarlet Knights ended the half holding out for the last shot. Dane Miller put in an easy layup, giving Rutgers a 30-19 lead at the break. Pitt ended the half 4-32 (12.5%) from the field, and 2-11(18.2%) from three-point range. Turnovers may have been the factor entering the game, but Pitt was actually winning in that department—seven turnovers to Rutgers' 10. On top of the poor shooting, Pitt was getting badly outmanned in the paint 16-2.
Pitt got its first points of the second half on a three-pointer from Johnson—his second of the game. A jumper from Gibbs—a rare sign of life from him in this game—brought it to within seven points, at 31-24. The pace at which Pitt was shooting, however, that kind of lead was the equivalent of a blowout. Even when Pitt tried to tighten up in the paint, Gilvydas Biruta weaved his way inside for a dunk. The Scarlet Knights went back up 33-24, four minutes into the second half.
After that basket by Gibbs, Pitt went without a field goal for the next five minutes, while Rutgers raced to a 41-26 lead. During that stretch, Pitt was 0-7 in between its 24th and 26th points of the night. In the first half, Pitt was able to stay in the game somehow, despite the poor start. When Rutgers got rolling, there was truly no hope. As Rutgers led by 15, Pitt was just 7-45 from the field.
Pitt went scoreless and without another field goal for another five minutes. Robinson got his first basket of the game, after starting 0-6. Robinson entered Wednesday night's game still leading the Big East in field goal percentage (.633). He has gone 7-20 in his last two games—the only two games of the season he's been under 40 percent from the field.
Despite the loss, Rutgers head coach Mike Rice feels that Pitt may be in a slump, but he says it's all part of the game.
"Everybody goes through this," Rice said. "It's going to work itself out when you have a great coach and great players."