Despite shooting an impressive 46 percent from three-point range, Pitt men’s basketball fell to Virginia Tech on the road, 81-67, marking the team’s third consecutive ACC loss.
The Panthers (8-8 overall, 0-3 ACC) came into Saturday’s game as a team looking to prove that they could be competitive in the ACC without senior Ryan Luther. Luther, who is the team leader in points in rebounds, has been out for a stress injury in his right foot since Pitt’s loss to West Virginia on Dec. 9.
Still, the team failed to establish any significant production in the paint, causing their fall to the Hokies (12-4 overall, 1-2 ACC).
In wake of Luther’s foot injury, head coach Kevin Stallings started five first-years for the first time in program history in Pitt’s previous matchup versus Louisville. Stallings continued the trend on Saturday, going with the all-first-year lineup of guard Marcus Carr, guard Parker Stewart, guard Khameron Davis, guard/forward Shamiel Stevenson and forward/center Terrell Brown.
The Panthers came out shooting efficiently from beyond the arc, making four of their first five threes in the opening 10 minutes. Stewart and Carr led the three-point attack, each making two in the first half.
The two teams traded leads repeatedly throughout the first frame, with Pitt holding a 34-33 advantage with two minutes left in the half. However, that would be the last time the Panthers led in the game, as the Hokies finished the half on a 6-0 run to take a 39-34 lead.
Two problems plagued the Panthers in the early going: turnovers, and Hokie sophomore forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. Pitt turned the ball over 10 times in the first half while allowing Blackshear to score 17 points, which led all scorers. For the Panthers, Carr and junior guard/forward Jared Wilson-Frame led the team with nine points each.
Virginia Tech scored three quick baskets to begin the second half, stretching its lead to double digits. Wilson-Frame did all he could to keep Pitt in the game, though, scoring 11 of the Panthers’ first 17 points in the half. When he knocked down two free throws with 12 minutes remaining, the score was tied at 51.
After that, however, the Panthers failed to keep up with the Hokies’ rapid scoring. Despite closing within five points, 67-62, with three minutes left, Pitt failed to contain the duo of Blackshear Jr. and first-year Nickell Alexander-Walker, who led Virginia Tech on a 14-5 run to close out the game.
Wilson-Frame finished as the Panthers’ leading scorer with 20 points, followed by Carr and Stewart with 14 and 12 points, respectively. For the Hokies, Blackshear Jr. led the way with a dominant 31 points on 12-16 shooting.
Pitt now sits at an overall record of 8-8, 0-3 in the ACC. Their next game will be against No. 2 Duke on Jan. 10 at the Petersen Events Center. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.