Panthers’ offense falls flat in road loss to Hoosiers


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — In its first true road game of the season, the Pitt men’s basketball team got off to a good start, scoring the game’s first points before then going up 4-2. 

Pitt wouldn’t lead again.

Playing Indiana University as part of the ACC/Big 10 Challenge Tuesday night, the Panthers struggled mightily on defense en route to a 81-69 loss, the most points they’ve given up all season. 

Redshirt sophomore guard Chris Jones didn’t think the sold-out crowd of 17,472, vociferous at times,  had any effect on his team’s subpar play, noting the number of returning players from last season who have experience playing in such environments. 

“For whatever reason, we just didn’t get it together like we wanted to tonight,” Jones said. “That was on both ends of the ball.” 

Indiana (6-1) entered the contest with a strong offense, averaging 89 points and 10 3-pointers a game. Its players penetrated the Pitt defense with ease, getting to the basket without much impediment for all 40 minutes. Afterwards, head coach Jamie Dixon seemed baffled by what was a constant occurrence. 

“There were some [scores] which were hard to believe. We’re in position, we were there, but they were still able to turn the corner,” Dixon said. “It makes you wonder where our deficiencies lie.”

By the final whistle, Indiana had outscored Pitt 48-28 in the paint. 

The situation outside of the arc wasn’t much different, with open looks abound for the Hoosiers there, too. They converted five of seven 3-pointers in the opening period. 

It was the fourth straight time that Pitt’s opposition has made more than half of its shots. 

“We didn’t play defense,” sophomore forward Michael Young said. “We didn’t execute anything we wanted to do on defense: story of the game.” 

The Panthers (4-3) compounded their defensive woes with poor offense, converting on just 36 percent of their opportunities and shooting 7-26, (27 percent) from 3-point territory. 

The tone for the game was set when, holding a two-point lead with eight and a half minutes remaining in the opening period, the hosts went on a 14-3 run. The explosion occurred with Pitt’s leading scorer so far this season, Michael Young, on the bench. He already had two personal fouls.  

But his teammates would respond. Trailing by 11 with just over two and a half minutes to play before half, Jones got hot, connecting on three straight 3-pointers before freshman Cameron Johnson added another.

“I think we did a good job at getting the ball out. Josh Newkirk was pushing it and getting in the lane, creating for me and other guys,” Jones said of what worked during that brief period of attacking success. 

Jones led all scorers at the half with 16, but he would score just two more the rest of the game.  

After the break, Indiana picked up where it left off, cruising behind a balanced scoring attack. Three players finished in double digits.

Pitt couldn’t shrink the deficit to single digits, trailing by as many as 23.

“Our offense just became more stagnant,” Jones said. “We were just swinging the ball around the horn, instead of really getting into the lane.”  

It was a 10-point game with just about a minute left in regulation, but that window proved too late for any sort of comeback.  

“We’re kinda unpredictable right now,” Young said. “One day we’re good. One day we’re not.”

Pitt returns to action Friday night at 7 p.m. against Duquesne in The City Game at Consol Energy Center.