Pitt basketball’s recent stretch defined by disappointment

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Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

Sophomore guard Au’Diese Toney made only three of 14 shot attempts during Wednesday night’s 73-57 loss to Georgia Tech.

By Dalton Miller, Staff Writer

The Pitt men’s basketball team found itself on the wrong end of another blowout, falling 73-57 to Georgia Tech Wednesday night. It was the Panthers’ seventh straight loss, with their last win coming Feb. 8 against this same Georgia Tech team.

Throughout the course of this losing streak, the Panthers have appeared unmotivated. They haven’t looked hungry or aggressive at all. They’ve actually looked quite the opposite — complacent with their play, not striving to turn things around.

Pitt came out against the Yellow Jackets looking extremely flat, just as it has over nearly every game during the losing streak. The Panthers fell behind early and couldn’t climb out of the sizable hole that they dug. While they managed to put together a few runs that got them within single digits, they could not contain Georgia Tech’s offense.

These back-and-forth runs have been a constant story for the Panthers this season. They’ve consistently gone on scoring streaks and then fallen into even longer droughts. Nearly every player on the team has fallen victim to this poor habit.

Sophomore forward Au’Diese Toney and first-year forward Justin Champagnie have at least shown flashes of legitimacy over the past seven games, averaging 12.9 and 11 points per game, respectively. But sophomore guards Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens — who were expected to lead Pitt this season — struggled with shooting and turnovers and seem to have regressed from last season.

The McGowens and Johnson duo turned in another disappointing performance against the Yellow Jackets, combining for only 12 points, five assists and four rebounds. They made only three shots on 12 attempts and both found themselves in foul trouble.

Though the two had rough outings, they still managed to outperform Toney. While, as previously mentioned, Toney has shown flashes of greatness this season, he showed just how much he can struggle offensively on Wednesday, turning in an unsightly 3-14 shooting performance from the field and 1-3 from the foul line.

Graduate forward Eric Hamilton seemed to be the Panthers’ only effective player offensively. In a return to his hometown of Atlanta, the transfer put on an impressive performance, contributing a team-high 12 points and nine boards in 23 minutes. He was Pitt’s only player with more than five rebounds and its only player aside from Champagnie to score in double digits.

Pitt struggled in every aspect of the game, failing to score, defend or rebound at an acceptable level. The Panthers shot an abysmal 31% from the field despite hitting a solid 43% of their shots from beyond the 3-point line. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech shot 49% from the field and 47% from deep. The Yellow Jackets also shot an impressive 92% from the free throw line.

The Panthers continued their problems at the charity stripe, shooting under 70%. This has been one of their biggest issues all season as no player has proven capable of consistently knocking down free throws. It’s a major flaw that Pitt must improve on in order to make a run in the ACC Tournament.

The Panthers will have almost a full week off before ACC Tournament play starts on Tuesday, March 10. This will be a much needed rest for the Panthers, as they seem to be lacking energy as of late.

At this point, Pitt will need to make a run in the conference tournament for any chance of postseason play. While grabbing a few wins may land Pitt an invite to the National Invitational Tournament, the only way for the Panthers to find themselves playing in the NCAA Tournament is by running the table and winning the ACC Championship.

In all likelihood, Pitt won’t do enough to get an invite to the NIT, let alone the NCAA Tournament, and its season will end with a loss in Greensboro, North Carolina, early in the ACC Tournament.

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