Parker Stewart drilled a 3-pointer off a kick out pass from Kene Cukwuka with 7:17 left in Tuesday’s first half, and for the first time this month, Pitt’s first victory of the ACC season appeared at least conceivable.
The Panthers held a 28-13 lead thanks to sharp early outside shooting and a 2-3 zone that was baiting Boston College into off-the-mark 3-pointers. The Eagles had made just five of their first 21 shots and the Panthers were shooting 64.2 percent from the field. They had a cushion, they were defending well and they were taking good shots on offense.
And from that point forward, they were outscored 68-30.
The Eagles erased Pitt’s lead with a 19-4 run toward the end of the first half, then outscored the Panthers 49-24 in the second half to take an 81-58 victory in front of just 2,835 at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers (8-18, 0-14 in the ACC) remain winless in conference with a 14-game losing streak that is the longest in program history. They have lost 18 straight ACC games going back to last season.
“Obviously very disappointed in the way we played in the second half,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said. “… It’s disappointing that we let it get away from us like we did. I thought our response to adversity in the second half was not very good. That’s on me.”
After a strong performance early, the Panthers’ zone broke down completely toward the end of the first half and was never repaired in the second half.
Even after the late rally, the Eagles still finished the first half shooting 28.6 percent (10-of-35) from the field. Twenty of their 35 field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and they made just six of those shots. They had just six points in the paint.
In the second half, however, the Eagles focused getting the ball to junior guard Jerome Robinson when he flashed to the high post and running the offense through him.
After a foul-ridden first half in which he scored just two points on 1-of-6 shooting, Robinson scored 25 points in the second half to finish with a game-high 27. The ACC’s second-leading scorer made 10 of 12 field goals after the break, hitting foul-line jumpers and taking the ball to the rim. He accounted for many of the Eagles’ 28 points in the paint in the second half.
Thanks in large part to Robinson, Boston College shot 61.3 percent from the field in the second half (19 for 31) and attempted just nine 3-pointers, making three.
“I was catching it in the high-post and I had the five-man on me a lot,” Robinson said. “So I knew I could just do different things by attacking, ball fakes, get him off me just to get relaxed and get some easy jump shots. Once I got a couple of easy jump shots in the middle, I just got to be able to take it to the paint with a couple of counter moves and stuff like that. Then it went from that to being able to find my teammates in the zone as well. Just making the right play and staying aggressive.”
The Panthers weren’t nearly as aggressive at stopping Robinson from getting to the high post as he was at getting there.
“They started flashing him in there in the zone and every time out, we talked about, ‘OK, we have to get in the high post,’” Stallings said. “We never seemed to do it. … The defense is in front of you (the coach) in the first half. You can kind of make guys aware of where the cutters are coming from or whatever. Then they get to the other end and they’re on their own and they have to talk to each other. We’re not very good at that yet.”
The Panthers continued to struggle in other areas where they also haven’t been very good. Pitt scored just 16 points in the paint and had to rely too much on outside shooting; more than half of the home team's field goal attempts (25 of 48) and more than half of their makes (11 of 20) came from beyond the arc. Freshman guard Parker Stewart finished with 16 points with four 3-pointers and Jared Wilson-Frame scored 11 with three 3’s, but no one else finished in double digits. The Panthers shot 55 percent from the field in the first half, but made just 9 of 28 shots after halftime (32.1 percent) with six of the nine being 3’s.
The Panthers also turned the ball over 20 times, which turned into 21 Boston College points. They were out rebounded 43-22, allowing Boston College 18 offensive rebounds while grabbing just two themselves. And they scored zero second-chance points to the Eagles’ 14.
“This one is more disappointing than others for me,” Stallings said. “To get doubled up in the second half, that shouldn’t happen.”