PPG PAINTS ARENA--
MICHAEL DISSAPPEARS IN SECOND HALF
After scoring 15 points on 7-10 shooting and grabbing 4 boards in the first half, forward Michael Young appeared to be gearing up for his sixth 20-plus point game of the season. Instead, he scored only 4 points on 1-11 shooting from the floor with 2 free throws and 2 rebounds. Young ended up with 19 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, shooting just 8-21 with 1 three-point basket.
“Mike just didn’t have a good night; I could see that at the shoot around,” said coach Kevin Stallings. “It is unfair to put the pressure on his shoulders every night and to expect him be able to deliver how he’s been delivering.”
Although part of these struggles can be attributed to the absence of guard Jamel Artis due to his violation of team standards, it does not give Young a pass for his lack of execution in the second half. Credit must also be given to Duquesne’s defensive efforts by using double teams in the post to force him into difficult looks that were farther from the basket.
TURNOVERS AND FAST BREAKS HURT PITT AGAIN
This loss marks the fifth time this season that Pitt lost the turnover battle against its opponent. Going into this contest, Pitt’s turnover margin of -1.7 served as an indicator of things to come Friday night. On top of that, Pitt’s opponent has now scored at least 10 points off of turnovers for the sixth time this year.
Against the Dukes, the Panthers gave up 10 points off of turnovers, including a costly pass by guard Chris Jones with 23 seconds left that led to an easy transition basket by junior forward Eric James. That play gave Duquesne a 62-53 lead and sealed Pitt’s fate.
CHRIS JONES CAME TO PLAY
A lone bright spot for Pitt in this contest was Chris Jones, who finished with 11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. He shot an efficient 4-6 from the field and 3-4 from the charity stripe in 38 minutes of play. 9 of his points came in the second half as he accounted for 36% of his team’s scoring and converted 3 of the Pitt’s 7 made field goals during the final half.
Coach Stallings said of Jones after the game “Chris [Jones] was the only guy on the team that played anywhere near his capability.” This was the third time this season and 23rd time in his Pitt career he reached double-figures in points.
THE STARTERS STRUGGLED…
Although three starters scored in double-figures, nobody was efficient with the basketball besides Jones. Forward Sheldon Jeter tallied 5 points, 10 rebounds and 3 turnovers on an abysmal 1-6 from the floor and 2-2 from the line; guard Damon Wilson scored just 2 points with 2 assists on 1-3 shooting in 9 minutes of play; and guard Cam Johnson had 14 points and 8 rebounds on 5-16 shooting from the floor. Johnson also shot just 1-7 from downtown and 3-4 from the line with 1 steal and 1 block.
“There was nothing about our play that was good enough to win,” said Stallings. “We weren’t good enough on offense; we didn’t shoot well enough.” As a team, Pitt shot 20-60 from the field, 3-22 from three and just 7-33 in the second half.
…BUT THE BENCH STRUGGLED TOO
The entire bench contributed just 4 points with all of them coming from forward Ryan Luther who shot 1-4 and 2-4 from the free-throw line. Luther also had 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 turnovers as his hustle plays failed to light the spark the team desperately needed. Guards Justice Kithcart and Jonathan Milligan shot a combined 0-3, and forward Corey Manigault took 1 sot and missed.
In spite of the devastating loss, Jones offered a glimmer of hope after the game. “I mean it hurts now, but we just got to get over it and turn it into a positive down the road.”