Pitt continues losing streak in 62-48 loss to Clemson


Knox Coulter | Staff Photographer

First-year guard Trey McGowens (2), pictured here against Clemson, led Pitt with 16 points against Notre Dame.

By Alex Lehmbeck, Staff Wrtier

Pitt’s men’s basketball team was met with deja vu in its 62-48 loss to Clemson on Wednesday night at the Petersen Events Center, the team’s 11th-straight loss. A late Pittsburgh (12-16, 2-13 ACC) rally was not enough to bring the game within striking distance, but it did resemble the last meeting between the teams. When the Panthers came into South Carolina in January to face the Tigers, they were met with a 3-point shooting attack in an 82-69 loss.

“We didn’t play well tonight,” Pitt head coach Jeff Capel said. “The bottom line is that we didn’t play well, and we’ll figure it out and try to be better next time we play.”

Similar to the last time the two teams faced off, Clemson came out on fire, jumping to a 10-0 lead. Pitt started to bring the momentum back on its side with 17 minutes and 45 seconds left in the first half. Senior guard Jared Wilson-Frame started the short run. First-year guard Xavier Johnson, who led the Panthers with 11 points, kept it going with a tough finish at the rim. Pitt went cold for the second time of the night soon after that and Clemson went on an 11-point run.

Clemson, which came in averaging only 6.37 percent of 3-point field goals made per game, hit eight threes in the first half. It would end the game with 10 3-pointers made.

The Pittsburgh offense struggled greatly in the first half, only putting up 16 points. The Panthers shot 23.8 percent from the field in the first period, including 16.7 percent from 3-point land. Johnson, Pitt’s best offensive player this season, had five turnovers going into the break. The Panthers only had one player in double-digit scoring on the night.

“I think what happened today, and at Clemson, is they hit so many shots early we were dejected,” Capel said. “We’re such an immature team, that we allow that to affect everything. We miss a shot, that affects the defense. We play decent defense and they bank in a three, that affects the offense. At times, it takes us a while to get out of that, and that’s one of many areas where we have to grow.”

The Tigers, meanwhile, had no trouble cutting through the Pitt defense, shooting 55.6 from the field and 57.1 percent from three in the first half. Clemson had four players finish with double-digit points.

Pitt came out in the second half with more energy, but Clemson graduate forward David Skara scored six points in a row to extend the Tigers lead out to 34-18 with 17 minutes and 34 seconds left to play in the second half.

Finally, Pitt junior center Kene Chukwuka swished an open three to start a Pitt run. On the ensuing Clemson possession, Trey McGowens, third in the ACC in steals per game, picked Tiger graduate point-guard Marcquise Reed’s pocket and finished at the other end with a dunk.

The Oakland Zoo crowd slowly gained life as the Panthers crawled their way back into the game. Pitt managed to pull together a possession where each Panther touched the ball within a five-second span, and sophomore center Terrell Brown capped it with a dunk to cut Clemson’s lead to 13.

“You know that they are gonna make a run, and you know you’re not gonna shoot it as well as you did in the first half,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell said. “You just gotta hope that your defense is solid and that you rebound well and don’t turn it over for points, which I don’t think we did much.”

Johnson then followed up with a three a few moments later to get chants of “Let’s go, Pitt!” started throughout the arena.

A dunk from senior forward Elijah Thomas with 7:54 to play ended Clemson’s 8:35 scoring drought and Pitt’s 16-2 run to make the score 50-38.

The Panthers would never find their spark again. Clemson first-year Hunter Tyson — who is averaging 1.4 points per game this season — hit two late dagger threes, Clemson’s only long balls of the second half, to put away any hopes of a Panther comeback. Tyson finished with a game-high 15 points that included three 3-pointers in 16 minutes of play.

“Come into halftime, guys are upset, feelings are in the air and then the second half we come out fighting,” Brown said. “We need to do that from the start.”

This loss extended the Panthers’ losing streak to 11 games. Pitt will look to finally end that streak when it plays at second-ranked Virginia on Saturday.

“It’s a lot of stuff that we’re dealing with, but no one is going to feel sorry for us,” Capel said. “No team that we play certainly is going to feel sorry for us. We can’t use that as an excuse. We have to figure out a way to be better in these situations.”

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