The Pitt Panthers Mens Basketball team Played Navy on the road in the Veterans classic. And after the dust settled, the youth og the basketball team was glaring. But what was also glaring was just how much talent the team has currently. The Panthers fell to Navy by the final score of 71-62. But that only tells part of the story.
Coming into the season, the Panthers had two returning players. Ryan Luther and Johnathan Milligan, and both are redshirt seniors that saw playing time last night. Luther was out on the floor for most of the game. Milligan started, but was replaced fairly quick with Freshman Marcus Carr.
In the first half, we saw a team that was not afraid to shoot and they were making shots from all over the floor. They were also a team that was figuring out how to play against an active zone that was not giving up much.
Three freshman logged a ton of minutes for Pitt, two of them started. Parker Stewart and Shemiel Stevenson both started. Stevenson played 30 minutes and is a big wide body. Stevenson filled up the stat sheet and the middle as He grabbed 9 boards, to go along with 2 assists, 1 block and 7 points. He would commit a flagrant foul late in the game and was ejected with under a minute to play.
Stewart played 21 minutes but was ice-cold from the field going 0-5 with no points. He showed his defensive skills and handled the ball fairly well. Marcus Carr came off the bench and played 31 minutes and scored 12 points. He shot the 3 ball well And played very well for a freshman.
The Panthers were led by junior transfer guard Jared Wilson-Frame Finishing with 20 points, he played with an edge going inside and shooting well from outside. The one area he struggled was at the foul line, but that was a common theme for this group Friday.
Ryan Luther played fair on defense and his offense woke in the second half. Luther led all players with 33 minutes.
The Panthers were able to keep the game close throughout the first half and actually drew to within 1 as they entered the dressing room. The young Panthers shot 54% from the field in the first half and looked fearless.
The second half, was a completely different story…. at least for the first 10 minutes. Pitt only had 1 point scored in the first 10 minutes or so, missing their first 10 or 11 shots. Nothing was falling, at least until they started to attack the middle. During that dry spell, Navy would build a 15 point lead only to see it almost completely disappear. During that final 10 minutes, the Panthers fought all the way back to within 4 points with under 2 minutes to play.
But the experience of the Naval Academy showed up in spades in those final minutes as they would convert every foul shot but 1 late in the game. Shooting from the charity stripe was the difference as Navy would go 15 for 18 for the game and the Panthers would make only 8 of 15.
This Pitt team played with a lot of heart throughout and showed just how athletic they can play. What they were looking for late in that game though was a leader to take control, and just like most young teams that aspect has not shown up yet. The Panthers would miss open shots late and because of it they were forced to foul and Navy began to pile on the points.
Another Freshman guard, Khameron Davis would play 22 minutes and add another 6 points for the night. Terrel Brown, 6’10” freshman forward would kick in 3 points in just 4 minutes of play.
Pitt would finish the game shooting barely over 41%, and less than 29% from three.
Coach Kevin Stallings this week preached to the fans “Patience” and I believe if they can be patient they could be rewarded with a surprise season. There is good talent on the team, although very young so ups and downs will more than likely be the 2017-2018 calling card.
In the Post game press conference, coach Stallings talked about how he was disappointed with the Panthers lack of physicality and inability to make foul shots. Stallings did say that he like the fact that they played hard throughout but you just can’t go 10 minutes scoring 1 point and win on the road. Coach said it was not until later in the second half that his team started to make plays and drive the lane more which opened things up for them.
Jared Wilson-Frame was asked about the inexperience of playing together and if that could have played a role in the long drought in the second half. He said they work on specific situations in practice all the time, that the game was about mental errors and breakdowns.
Pitt will host the Legends Classic this week with Montana on Monday and UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday and then face Penn State on the 20th.