When Pitt loses games, Jamie Dixon's usual suspect is the Panthers' defense. And, granted, it wasn't good enough in a 72-59 loss to No. 11 Purdue Tuesday.
But Dixon also singled out his team's 4 for 19 mark from 3-point range as a reason for the loss. Both for the quality of looks the Panthers had, but also the way the players reacted when shots didn't go through the net.
"It seemed like we had wide open threes," Dixon said, "they had some guarded threes. Theirs went in, ours didn’t and that really separated the two teams at that point then from our one-point lead."
The Panthers took their first lead of the game at 44-43 with 12 minutes to play when James Robinson made a pull up jumper over Caleb Swanigan. Pitt then missed three straight 3-point tries and Dixon was unhappy with the team's response.
"At the end of day there was that stretch there we had wide open threes," Dixon said, "I think three or four in a row that we don’t hit and they can’t be deflating. But they were."
In the meantime, Purdue took the lead back and went up by 11 points with the help of Ryan Cline who hit four 3-pointers in the second half. The Boilermakers shot 11 of 28 from long distance and hit 44 percent of their attempts from the field
Dixon saw a correlation between the missed shots and missed defensive attempts that freed Purdue's freshman sharpshooter for his game-changing shots.
"That’s what we have to get across to the guys," Dixon said. "If we miss a shot, we have to have the confidence and the belief in the defensive end that we’re going to get it done the next time down."
Robinson led Pitt (4-1) with 17 points but the Panthers shot just 35 percent from the field. Michael Young posted a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
A.J. Hammons scored 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting off the bench for Purdue (7-0) while starters Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan were benched by foul trouble. Cline added 12 points on his 4 of 6 makes from 3-point range.
"He was getting his catches in good position," Young said of Hammons. "He wasn’t dribbling. He was just kind of catching and turning. It makes it tough when he’s also 7-foot and no matter where he catches it he’s just turning and shooting."
Purdue jumped out to a commanding 24-7 lead 10 minutes in. The Boilermakers capitalized on five early Pitt turnovers to score 11 points in that stretch.
Pitt finished the period on a 19-5 run to pull within three points of Purdue, 29-26, at halftime.
Robinson said Purdue's early lead was spurred by Pitt missing shots and giving the Boilermakers open looks. The Panthers were able to claw back into the game by maintaining their resolve on the defensive end.
"We knew our shots were going to fall eventually," Robinson said, "which they did. We just had to continue to get stops. From there we were able to cut our deficit a pretty good amount."
Pitt's defense switched to a zone which forced the Boilermakers into 5 of 20 shooting to finish the first half. Purdue head coach Matt Painter was actually surprised Dixon didn't throw his zone scheme out to begin the game.
"I thought they would start in the zone but we were able to do good things against their man," Painter said. "We got good looks in the first half. Our bigs couldn't finish but A.J. came alive in the second half."
The teams exchanged blows back and forth throughout the second half before Purdue pulled away late.
Chris Jones drew the Panthers within six late when he knocked the ball loose to Robinson, who kicked ahead to Jones for a layup he finished through contact. Jones made the and-one try with three minutes on the clock but Pitt didn't score again.
At the end, Pitt's poor 3-point shooting and inability to stop Purdue paled in comparison to the Boilermakers' execution of those two facets--particularly late in the game.
"Those are going to happen and you’ve got to win with defense," Dixons said of the shooting. "We’re not at that point to beat a very good team."