3-Pointers: Three takeaways from Pitt's 75-74 loss to Vanderbilt
Pitt lost a close game to Vanderbilt by a score of 75-74. The Panthers used a late 8-0 run to take a lead in the final seconds, but came up short. Pitt’s five-game winning streak came to an end, and the Panthers now have a 6-4 record.
Here are three things that stood out from the game.
Mistakes loom large
Anytime you lose a basketball game by one point, it is only natural to look back at what went wrong. When Jeff Capel watches the film from this 75-74 setback to Vanderbilt, he’ll find plenty of things he won’t be pleased with out of his team.
Vanderbilt had a distinct size advantage, but allowing 18 offensive rebounds in a single game is inexcusable. The Panthers were out-fought for loose balls, and the second chances proved to be costly. The Commodores were credited with 15 second chance points, and in a tight game they were felt in an extreme way for Pitt.
The Panthers also missed some key free throws in this one. They shot 14-of-21 for the game, but some late misses hurt them, including a pair from Blake Hinson with under seven minutes to go in the game.
The turnovers were another area that loomed large in a one possession game. Pitt committed 15 turnovers in this one. They protected the ball better in the second half, as they only committed four turnovers after halftime, but the first half ones still mattered. The issue with the turnovers is that many of them were unforced by the defense, and Pitt simply tossed the ball out of bounds.
This felt like a very winnable game for Pitt against a rather ordinary Vanderbilt team. Winning games on the road is never easy, but Pitt dug a hole with mistakes, and although they nearly overcame them, it could have been a different game had they valued the ball more and did not allow so many second chances for the home team.
Hugley’s play is a growing concern
John Hugley logged 23 minutes on Wednesday night. The Panthers junior center produced 8 points, which was more than the previous two games combined, but it really wasn’t much of a step forward for Hugley. For the second game in a row he did not record a rebound. Looking back to his whole season, in the four games he’s played against power-five competition, Hugley has recorded just three rebounds.
We talked about the offensive rebounding being an issue, but you don’t have too look too far to see what the biggest problem was: Pitt's big man wasn't grabbing rebounds.
I am not always a proponent of the '+/-' statistic in basketball, but Hugley was -13 when he was on the floor, as opposed to his backup Federiko Federiko, who was plus-12.
Simply put, the team was more effective with the backup in the game.
Hugley’s late hedges on defense also led to some wide open looks for Vanderbilt. He seemed slow with his decision making on offense, as he committed three turnovers and finished 2-of-5 from the floor, and the team has had trouble incorporating him into the rotation. The Panthers have a guard oriented team that was supposed to help space the floor for him, but in reverse he seems to be clogging their lanes.
We all know Hugley was injured in the preseason. He has missed three games this season and it still does not look like his quite ready to play just yet. I am not sure if the knee is continuing to give him issues, or he just hasn’t gotten himself up to playing speed, but whatever it is, he is not producing like this team needs him to do.
We all saw Hugley post a borderline all-conference type season a year ago. He was a beast in the middle without much of a supporting cast and one of the best big men in the ACC last season. Hugley just is not the same player as he was, and while the team has overcome that of late and won some games, Wednesday was a glaring reminder that the team needs more from him if they want to have success in conference play.
Still something to work with
Pitt entered Wednesday as three-point underdogs to Vanderbilt, and while the Commodores looked beatable, the game sort of went as expected I suppose. I still saw some encouraging signs in this game from Pitt, and really the entire three-game road trip overall.
At the start of last week, Pitt was staring down the barrel of a three-game road trip against power-five competition. Taking two out of three was probably the most realistic goal, and they achieved that. I still think this team is a work in progress to a degree, but they gutted out two wins on the road against Northwestern and NC State and looked good while doing it. They didn’t have their best game on Wednesday, but nearly stole a third road win.
In the Vanderbilt game, I was really impressed with Nelly Cummings. The Panthers senior point guard looked as though he was pressing early on in the season, but he has settled in nicely and has come up with some big-time moments.
He finished with 18 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds. Cummings hit the go-ahead jumper in the final seconds, had two really acrobatic layups on some drives, and connected on three 3-pointers. He has emerged of late, which is a good sign as the team inches toward conference play.
Federiko’s play was promising, and he has likely exceeded all expectations many had for him in the preseason. I think it was expected the junior college transfer was just a guy with size to help fill out the roster, but he’s been a big contributor and should continue to be moving forward.
I also liked how Greg Elliott played. He knows he is a shooter and that is what this team needs from him and he delivered against Vanderbilt with a season-high 20 points. He made a huge three-pointer late in the game to help Pitt’s comeback attempt. Elliott also did some dirty work on defense and drew some charges.
I think the totality of the three-game road trip was a success. Winning two out of three was necessary, but leaving Nashville without a win has to sting for Capel’s team. This was a game against a beatable opponent and they left a lot of plays on the floor.