Unluck of the Irish

There is no doubt who was the better team during Pittsburgh's 74 – 71 victory over Notre Dame at the Petersen Center. The Panthers had obviously more depth, more strength and better defense. However, the Irish uncovered a few flaws in Pitt's game that many teams will attempt to exploit the rest of the season.

The Panthers historically have had trouble with streaky shooters. From the days of Matt Roe at Syracuse and Chris Smith of Connecticut to the most recent stars Caron Butler and Dewayne Wade, it seems that no matter what defense the Panthers have thrown at some of these players, the baskets continued to pile up.

The display that Chris Thomas put up on Monday was partially attributed to a hot streak and also due to some breakdowns on the defensive side of the ball. Too often, Julius Page, Carl Krauser and Jaron Brown lost Thomas on the court and Thomas made them pay for almost every open look he got. Give Thomas credit for his elusiveness, but Page and Brown are much better defenders than they showed Monday night.

Another problem is, once again, this team cannot shoot free throws consistently. Granted the Panthers have started a pattern of hitting the free throws that count down the stretch, but Pittsburgh is playing with fire. When a player like Yuri Demetrius gets fouled, he needs to make the free throws. He wasn't even close. Julius Page, who was shooting 71% from the line, must make at least 4 of the 5 free throws he had down the stretch. He made only two. After perhaps saving the Panthers in their double overtime win against Miami, the free throw shooting almost cost the Panthers against the Irish. The Panthers were a woeful 11 – 22 against the Irish. Brown and Page were a combined 5 - 14. That's not going to cut it against Syracuse or Connecticut.

Finally, there is the lack of inside passing. For the first time in a long time, Pitt has a scoring machine inside. Chris Taft will put up massive points in his career. The problem is, as the ESPN announcers pointed out, he only has one move. That's the turnaround or hook shot over his left shoulder. Regardless of the shoot, he turns to his left. That's not going to cut it against Emeka Okafer. The big man should look to get the inside passing game going. There is probably not a better group of hands in the NCAA than the big men of Pitt. Instead of looking for outside shots that aren't there, the Panthers should exploit their strength, touch and quickness inside.

Panther More Top Stories