basketball Edit

3-Pointers: Three takeaways from Pitt's 91-60 loss to Michigan

The Pitt basketball team lost 91-60 to 20th-ranked Michigan on Wednesday night in the opening game of the Legends Classic in Brooklyn. After looking up to the challenge early on in this game, Pitt could not hang with the Wolverines for a full 40 minutes, and collapsed entirely after halftime.

Pitt now has a 1-2 record on the season. The Panthers will return to action tomorrow night for a second game in Brooklyn and will either take on Arizona State or VCU. So what stood out from Wednesday's game? Let's dig in on that.

1) Pitt fails to look competitive for a second straight game

I don't think anybody reasonably expected Pitt to come into Wednesday's game and beat Michigan. The Wolverines are coming off a Sweet 16 run, they are ranked 20th in the country, and feature one of the nation's premiere players in Hunter Dickinson. They are a more than formidable team. Michigan was the favorite entering this game, and proved that for 40 minutes.

While I didn't think Pitt would win, I thought they would look competitive and hang in there longer than they did. Pitt made some shots early on and traded baskets for the first 10 minutes. Even after Michigan figured out what it wanted to do on offense, Pitt stuck in there and kept it as a six-point game at halftime.

It was almost a similar script as the West Virginia game on Friday, where Pitt battled early on, but a switch flipped and they couldn't hit that next gear like their opponent did. Michigan just started to do what it wanted on offense, which is fine and almost expected as they are a gifted offensive team. It just became apparent Pitt did not have the firepower to keep it competitive.

And while Michigan is a talented team on offense, the Panthers left a lot to be desired on the defensive side of the ball. The Wolverines had far too many easy looks, and finished with 38 points in the paint.

I think we all know the state of this Pitt basketball program by now. They have not been very good lately, but this team at least looks deeper and more talented than what they had last year, so it is concerning that this team has hit a second half wall in back-to-back games and seemingly had no way of getting out of it. Again, I don't think Pitt was expected to win this game but a 30-point loss was also not what many envisioned either. Pitt needs to show signs of improvement throughout this pivotal season for Jeff Capel, and these two losses are not helping the cause.

2) John Hugley returned to the lineup

The only positive to take away from Wednesday's game is that Pitt's best player returned to the lineup. John Hugley earned the start on Wednesday. He finished with 9 points in 22 minutes of action. The junior center looked fatigued and was clearly not up to playing speed just yet.

Hugley sustained a knee injury in the offseason. He was cleared to return to basketball activities last week, and had only been participating in full contact for a handful of days. I think the rustiness obviously showed because of those factors. Hugley is a good player and I think he proved that last season, and he will be Pitt's top option...in time. It's clear Hugley just was not himself. He only finished with one rebound and did not look overly assertive on offense, though his teammates need to look for him on the block more.

The anticipated matchup between Hugley and Dickinson was kind of a wash. They are two of the better centers in college basketball and the star player for their respective teams, but the game was not really defined by the two big men.

Dickinson was certainly more impactful, but he finished with a season-low of 11 points. Michigan had a better supporting cast and while Dickinson's scoring was limited, he was more active on defense and getting his teammates involved.

I think Hugley will need a little bit more time to look like himself, but at least that process is under way. Pitt needs him to be really good, and I think that will happen, but it just wasn't there in his first game.

3) Pitt needs more from Nelly Cummings

Nelly Cummings finished with 4 points, 5 assists, and 3 turnovers in Wednesday's loss to Michigan. He left the game late in the second half and went to the locker room with an apparent injury and did not return to the floor. That is obviously something to watch for tomorrow's game for certain.

Having said that, Cummings needs to give more to this team. The veteran transfer from Colgate has played in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments. He was supposed to bring a winning mindset and be a steadying force in the backcourt this season, but he has gotten off to a rocky start. Cummings is averaging three turnovers per game to this point and is only shooting 8-of-24 from the field in these first three games, and is just 1-of-10 from three-point range.

Cummings was hampered by foul trouble in the loss to West Virginia last week, but he avoided that on Wednesday. The senior guard just did very little to provide an impact for his team. I am not sure Cummings is expected to be a big scoring threat, but he needs to provide a little more than he has, while also running the offense and setting up his teammates.

Obviously Cummings was supposed to have help in the backcourt from freshman Dior Johnson, but his arrest changed the outlook for this team and how the point guard position has looked. I think Jeff Capel expects a lot of Nelly Cummings, and he's had success in Division-1 basketball for a few seasons now. They need to get him going, because I think Pitt's whole operation will improve with better decision making and play from the point guard spot.