Men’s Basketball: Pitt loses fourth straight game

By Kelly Flanigan

The Pitt men’s basketball team set a new record on Thursday night — by losing.

Pitt has… The Pitt men’s basketball team set a new record on Thursday night — by losing.

Pitt has never lost four consecutive games under head coach Jamie Dixon, but with Thursday night’s 84-81 loss to DePaul (10-4, 1-1 Big East) in Chicago, the Panthers (11-5, 0-3 Big East) did just that.

A 3-pointer by DePaul’s Moses Morgan at the end of the shot clock put the Blue Demons up 76-75 with 2:50 remaining in the game.

Dante Taylor answered with a tip-in for Pitt and, after one DePaul free throw, Lamar Patterson dunked to give the Panthers a 79-77 lead with 1:23 left on the clock.

Two free throws from freshman guard John Johnson gave Pitt an 81-77 lead with 17 seconds left, but Brandon Young quickly responded with a layup for the Blue Demons.

DePaul then fouled guard Isaiah Epps —­­ a seldom-used, reserve redshirt freshman — with eight seconds remaining. With the chance to seal the victory, Epps missed both foul shots, and Brandon Young drove unimpeded to the basket for a layup and was fouled.

He made the free throw to bring the score to 82-81 with a second remaining in the game. After a failed long pass from the Panthers, Young secured the win and Blue Demon fans stormed the court to savor just the second conference victory for DePaul since the 2008-2009 season.

Pitt — who led for the majority of the first half — can’t seem to hold on to a lead this season and allowed DePaul to crawl back into the game in the second half.

Dixon started a new lineup against the Blue Demons as Johnson started instead of redshirt freshman Cameron Wright and Talib Zanna started at center in place of Dante Taylor.

DePaul started the game strong, taking an early 6-0 lead, and captalized on Pitt’s sloppy play.

Pitt’s half-court offense hasn’t run smoothly since starting point guard Travon Woodall suffered a torn abdomen and a groin strain against Duquesne.

Since Gibbs has taken on the point guard responsibilities, his own production has suffered. He scored 13 points against DePaul but shot 5-15 from the field and 2-6 from beyond the arc.

Johnson’s play was encouraging as he scored 10 points and shot 2-4 from the 3-point line, looking like he could help fuel the Panthers’ offense in the future.

Talib Zanna stood out in the second half and went 8-8 from the field for the game, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

The kind of defense the Panthers have become known for was also absent during the loss to DePaul, evidenced by the clear path that opened for Young to score the game-winning basket.

The Panthers outrebounded the Blue Demons 46-28 but also allowed DePaul to make 10-22 3-pointers and shoot nearly 50 percent from the field.

Pitt couldn’t extend its first-half lead and build a comfortable halftime advantage. Up 36-26 with 2:17 remaining, the Panthers allowed DePaul to score five of the half’s last seven points and go into the break with momentum.

Turnovers resulting from ill-advised fouls and careless inbound passes were abundant in Pitt’s play Thursday night. Pitt sent DePaul into the shooting bonus only seven minutes into the second half.

The Panthers will look to recover and pick up their first Big East win against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers on Jan. 11 at the Petersen Events Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.