Imperfect Panthers: Pitt goes 0-18 in ACC

Shamiel Stevenson (23) was the Panthers’ lead scorer with 10 points in Pitt’s 73-56 loss against Notre Dame Wednesday night. (Photo by Anna Bongardino | Senior Staff Photographer)

The Pitt men’s basketball team dropped its final game of the regular season Wednesday night at Notre Dame (18-12 overall, 8-9 ACC), 73-56, giving the Panthers a winless 0-18 record in the ACC and an 8-23 record overall.

The loss gave the Panthers their first ever winless season in conference play, while also casting more doubt around the job security of head coach Kevin Stallings with the ACC Tournament coming next week.

With the Panthers riding a program-record 17-game losing streak, expectations were low heading into this game. Pitt kept the score close early on, but fell victim to their main weaknesses — poor shooting and rebounding — as the game went on. The Panthers shot just 33 percent from the field and 23 percent from three, while getting outrebounded 51-35.

After scoring just seven points in the entire first half in against No. 1 Virginia Saturday, the Panthers reached that total in four minutes against the Fighting Irish after a 3-pointer by first year Shamiel Stevenson.

Notre Dame got a boost from senior standout Bonzie Colson, who made his return to action Wednesday night. The preseason ACC player of the year — who averaged 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds in the 14 games he played this season — missed the previous 15 games with a foot injury.

Colson immediately made his presence known as he accounted for eight of the Fighting Irish’s first 10 points, giving his team a 10-9 lead with 15 minutes left in the first half.

The Panthers looked competitive throughout the opening stretch of the first half, trading baskets at an even clip with their opponent — a welcome sight for a team that was humiliated out of the gate by Virginia this past Saturday. Pitt trailed by just one point, 14-13, after a layup by first-year guard Marcus Carr with 11 minutes left in the half.

From there, the game quickly turned ugly for Pitt. The Panthers didn’t score their 14th point — a Stevenson free throw — until there was 5:49 remaining in the half. Notre Dame scored 16 points in that six-minute span, giving the Fighting Irish a hefty 30-14 lead with under six minutes before halftime.

With the game approaching a blowout, the Panthers kept pace with their opponent for the remainder of the half and maintained that 16-point deficit, 39-23, heading into the break.

Stevenson led all Pitt scorers at halftime with 10 points, while no other Panther accounted for more than four. For the Fighting Irish, no player tallied double-digit points in the team’s balanced first-half offense.

The Panthers continued to stay even with the Fighting Irish throughout the opening minutes of the second half, with each team scoring 10 points in the first five minutes.

Notre Dame began to separate shortly after and took its first 20-point lead of the game when sophomore T.J. Gibbs nailed a three to make the score 54-33 with 13 minutes left.

With the game out of reach, the Panthers fought to keep the deficit from getting too lopsided.

Junior forward Jared Wilson-Frame was essentially the one productive player for the Panthers during this time, as he scored 11 of his team’s next 16 points. But despite his uptick in production, Pitt still trailed 64-48 with four minutes remaining.

The two teams exchanged a few more meaningless buckets, and the game ended the same as the previous 16 — with a Pitt loss, 73-56.

Wilson-Frame finished as the Panthers’ leading scorer with 20 points, while first-year center Terrell Brown chipped in 10 points and eight rebounds.

The Panthers’ season will continue with the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York. Play will begin March 6, with Pitt’s matchup to be determined.

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