Men’s basketball: Pitt falls to Wagner at home

By Lauren Kirschman

Wagner head coach Danny Hurley told his players to make sure their phones were charged after the… Wagner head coach Danny Hurley told his players to make sure their phones were charged after the Seahawks defeated the No. 15 Pitt men’s basketball team on Friday night.

He said they could expect plenty of calls and texts after Wagner’s 59-54 victory at the Petersen Events Center — the Panthers’ second loss in the building this season.

After losing just one non-conference game in the Petersen Events Center before this year — Bucknell in 2005 — Pitt has lost two non-conference games in its home building this season.

“Everybody wants to beat a top-ranked team,” Wagner’s Kenneth Ortiz said. “We had our chance and we hade the best of it. [Latif Rivers and I] talked about this our whole life…about how we wanted to do big things. Hopefully we keep it going.”

Wagner hadn’t beaten a ranked opponent since 1978 and Pitt entered the game 70-0 against Northeastern Conference opponents.

Pitt junior Dante Taylor said that both Wagner and Long Beach State — the other team to beat the Panthers at home this season — came in and played with more intensity than their host.

“We let them rush us on a lot of things instead of taking our time,” Taylor said.

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon called the loss “disappointing in every way.”

“I can’t really point to a lot of things that we did well,” Dixon said. “Our offense, well, the numbers don’t lie.”

The Panthers turned the ball over 18 times and shot just 19-48 field and 6-17 from the 3-point line. Ashton Gibbs led Pitt with 14 points, but shot 5-16 from the field and 1-7 from three.

He was the only Pitt player to reach double figures.

With starting point guard Travon Woodall still sitting out with an abdominal tear and groin strain, Pitt struggled even to get the ball across half court — something that didn’t go unnoticed by Hurley

“We felt like them not having Travon would be a big advantage for us,” Hurley said. “They were kind of laboring getting the ball up the court … They weren’t really initiating offense until 24 seconds [on the shot clock].”

Pitt sophomore Lamar Patterson said the Panthers were impatient and rushed their offense.

“[Woodall] would’ve helped a lot today with the pressure,” Patterson said. “He’s also our leader. He calms us down out there. I think that was the problem, we got a little ahead of ourselves.”

Dixon agreed that the Panthers seemed impatient.

“We had opportunities to come back but it seemed like we were impatient and didn’t have an understanding for how much time was left,” Dixon said. “It’s something that we’ll have to get better at and recognize and improve.”

Wagner got the looks it wanted offensively, driving to the basket seemingly at will and also hitting open looks from the perimeter.

The Panthers, however, struggled offensively throughout the game and leading scorer Gibbs didn’t score until the second half. Hurley said the Seahawks came into the game with the goal of extending their defense up the court.

“That’s how we normally guard, whether we’re playing the number one team in the country or anyone on the schedule,” he said. “We wanted to run them on both ends of the court.”

Pitt went into the break trailing 29-25 and didn’t take the lead in the second half. The Seahawks held a 12-point advantage with 12:01 left in the game.

The Panthers trimmed the Wagner lead to three on several occasions, including with nine seconds left in the game, but turnovers on key possessions kept Pitt from taking tying the game or taking the lead.

“We had some turnovers in the second half that were just hard to understand,” Dixon said. “We are better team than this but we didn’t play like it. We got what we deserved.”

The Seahawks held their own on the boards against a solid rebounding team in the Panthers.

Pitt outrebounded Wagner 37-28, but several long rebounds by Pitt produced the final margin. Hurley said he felt like the two teams were even on the boards for most of the game.

Rivers said Wagner knew rebounding would be critical for the Seahawks.

“We knew they were a great rebounding team,” Rivers said. “We knew we had to battle them on the boards. We were able to get a few tough rebounds and crucial rebounds.”

Rivers and Ortiz led the Seahawks with 18 and 12 points, respectively.

Dixon said that there’s not much good for Pitt to take out of the game as it prepares to open Big East play against Notre Dame on Dec. 27.