Pitt Basketball

Pitt Basketball: Panthers Hit Rock Bottom During Big East Play

WASHINGTON - MARCH 19:  Members of the Pittsburgh basketball team including Nasir Robinson #35, Ashton Gibbs #12; and Brad Wanamaker#22 walk off the court following their loss against Butler in the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Verizon Center on March 19, 2011 in Washington, DC. Butler won the game 71-70.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IJanuary 27, 2012

No one expected it to get this bad.

Certainly Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon didn't see it coming, but things have never been worse for the Pitt Panthers during the Dixon era.

This is rock bottom for Pitt in that time span. To be honest, rock bottom could have come after the loss to DePaul. Or it could have been after the 39-point effort against Rutgers. A Division-I team filled with scholarship players has no excuse to only score 39 points in a 40-minute basketball game.

It could have been when Khem Birch, the best recruit in recent memory for the Panthers, packed up and left the program.

No matter when you feel, the Panthers hit rock bottom. They’re there now.

Then there was another blown lead that led to a loss to Marquette, as the Pitt losing streak reached six.

It gets worse.

The Panthers hit the toughest part of their Big East conference schedule and lost two more to Syracuse and Louisville.

Before beating Providence last night, the Panthers were the last Big East team to get a conference win, losing their first seven Big East games and eight consecutive games over all.

What’s the problem?

Try everything.

The most glaring weakness has been the constant turnovers. This team simply can’t handle the ball against pressure. With Travon Woodall missing 11 games on the season, it’s forced Ashton Gibbs to be the primary ballhandler.

It’s also forced young guards John Johnson, J.J. Moore, Cameron Wright and others into more pressing duties.

Where in years past Dixon could rely on a veteran cast to not make mistakes and melt down the stretch, these young Panthers have made plenty of mistakes late in games.

That’s expected, though. Dixon has had to play a combined nine freshmen and sophomores this season. Young teams are going to struggle, and that’s what this Pitt team has done.

Another huge problem is the total lack of scoring.

Other than Gibbs, a second scoring option hasn’t emerged on a consistent basis. Pitt currently is averaging only 71.4 points per game, which is good for 116th in the nation. In addition, they are only shooting 46 percent from the floor, only 78th in the country and are the 113th-best three-point shooting team.

Overall the Panthers are still doing a better than average job rebounding the ball and on the defensive end of the floor, but they haven’t been able to develop any consistency on the offensive end.

They had their window of success, and that window was slammed shut with Gilbert Brown’s missed free throw in the NCAA tournament last year against Butler.

The good news is that there is good young talent on this team, and Dixon has a pair of solid recruits coming in next season.

It won’t be long before Dixon has the Panthers back in contention in the Big East.

In the meantime, it’s very difficult to watch Pitt struggle in the fashion that they are.

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