Coming into Friday’s game against Baylor, Pittman had put together two of his best performances of the year in the Big 12 Tournament.
He dominated Colorado on Wednesday with a season-high 26 points and 10 rebounds.
He took care of Kansas State, scoring 19 points, 20 boards and four blocks— recording season highs in rebounds, blocked shots and minutes played.
Yet there he was against Baylor confined to the pine— or should I say pinned to the plush leather seat.
See, the cushion Pittman’s provided the Longhorns on the court gives Texas coach Rick Barnes much greater comfort than when he’s riding the bench.
“The more he can stay out there, he is a factor,” said Barnes following the Longhorns victory against K-State on Wednesday. “There is no question about that.”
Pittman had seven points and one rebound against the Bears when he got called for his third foul at the beginning of the second half.
The box score won’t show it, but Pittman’s presence helped Texas build a 12-point lead early in the game. That “cushion” was quickly cut down to six by the time the half was over.
Pittman left the game with 2:39 remaining—about the same time Baylor started to comeback.
He’s had four or more fouls in 12 games this season—the Longhorns have lost in six of those games and Pittman has only played in an average of 14 minutes.
It’s left Barnes with no choice but to limit his 6-foot-10, 298 pound center’s minutes.
“I thought earlier in the year officials had a hard time officiating the game because of his size,” Barnes said. “I think it is because he is such a big man.”
“Earlier in the year I think people were flopping and doing things like that. I think (Pittman) has adjusted to know what he can do, where he needs to be. He has learned to not lead so much with an elbow or shoulder into people.”
Pittman fouls limited him to 24 minutes against Baylor. When he was on the floor he was mostly rendered ineffective, finishing with zero second-half points and a paltry five shot attempts, seven points and three rebounds.
Baylor beat Pittman. Baylor beat Texas 76-70.
“He is a large man. He needs lots of attention,” said Baylor guard Curtis Jerrells. “I told my guys, I said, man, that due has been averaging 20, 23, 24 points a game in the tournament.”
Jerrells is right on both accounts. His size and physical play makes him hard to defend.
The attention thing is a whole other story. Pittman is somewhat of a project. The junior has tremendous upside, but can’t seem to play consistent basketball.
“(Pittman), I think, the two days back-to-back, playing the most minutes, I thought he would probably feel it more than anybody, and I think he did early,” Barnes said.
“But then the foul trouble sat him down a little bit.”
Pittman did for Texas in his two fantastic tournament games what Big 12 Player of the Year Blake Griffin has done for Oklahoma all year long.
If the “large man” can play large, expect big things from Texas during the NCAA Tournament.
“Ya’ll held him to seven. Ya’ll did y’alls job,” Jerrells boasted.
Now Pittman needs to do his by get off that comfortable chair and give Texas the cushion they need.