Pitt dominated Monday in a 99-80 win over Gardner-Webb, but new coach Kevin Stallings pulled no punches about his team following the game.
“With all due respect to Gardner-Webb, I thought we missed an opportunity to get better tonight,” Stallings said. “I was disappointed in our intensity, in our concentration and in our focus. Our body language wasn’t right,” Stallings continued.
As far as when this became an issue, Stallings claimed it reared its ugly head yesterday in practice and had a carryover effect into tonight’s game.
In this regard, numbers don’t lie, stats vividly reinforce Stallings’ notion.
Turnovers were a significant issue for Pitt against Gardner-Webb, a mid-major club residing in the Big South conference. The Panthers turned the rock over 19 times, outdoing the Runnin’ Bulldogs, who turned it over nine times, by ten. Leading the way, not in a positive manner, with four loose balls was senior Jamel Artis. His position change from small forward to point guard may be an adequate excuse for some early season failures.
Nevertheless, Stallings, again citing Pitt’s lack of body language and energy, removed all five starters from the court early on — much of which was due to GWU offering no severe threat of victory.
But it wasn’t just turnovers.
Shoddy post play on both sides of the ball ensued. The Runnin’ Bulldogs outdueled Pitt in the paint by exactly 20 points, 52-32. No matter how undersized you are, mid-major programs, especially a non-elite program, should never do such a thing on your home court.
Of course, though embarrassing at times, the Panthers still won the matchup.
Pitt made up for its abundance of turnovers and subpar post play with strong behind the arc shooting. As a team, Pitt shot an outstanding 50 percent for the game; Cameron Johnson contributing mightily.
A 4-4 performance from downtown is nothing to laugh at from the sophomore, though Pitt won’t be able to rely solely on 3-point play against more prominent teams going forward.
“Cam (Johnson) shot it very well tonight,” Stallings said in his press conference.
Johnson wasn’t the only returner from last season to produce Monday.
Sheldon Jeter, who played hard on both sides of the ball, stood out among the field. The 6-foot-8 senior guard led the team by earning his second career double-double and three steals to go along with it.
Jeter’s performance ended up warranting him deserved praise from Stallings after the game.
“Sheldon Jeter played really hard and was active,” continuing, Stallings said, “He played with effort, energy and attention to detail.”
Additionally, Jeter recognized his coach’s discrepancies in the postgame presser.
“(Stallings) was a little disappointed with some of our efforts during the game,” Jeter said. “He felt there was a little lackluster energy, and there was.”
- All 4,614 patrons on hand helped set a new Petersen Events Center record… lowest attendance in the arena’s history for a single game. Perhaps why some players didn’t have their “energy” up Monday.
- To the surprise of many, Michael Young, a senior star and ACC player to watch, was left out of the starting five. Coach Stallings attributed his benching to a “minor infraction with minor consequences.” Instead, Ryan Luther started in Young’s place. However, the Pitt standout would start the second half and amass 15 total minutes throughout the affair — 18 points and seven rebounds.
- Five players were over double digits in points: Johnson (18), Young (18), Jeter (14), Artis (11) and Jonathan Milligan (10).
- Two guys saw the floor for the first time in a Pitt uniform: Rozelle Nix and Zach Smith (Pitt-Bradford transfer).
- Nix ignited the Oakland Zoo and Panther fans alike with four rebounds and a monstrous block, which sent the ball of the backboard and past half court.
Pitt’s will continue 2K Classic action against SMU at Madison Square Garden in New York. Both teams have flip-flopped opponents to start the year and both came away a perfect 2-0.
Look for the Mustangs and 6-foot-11 freshman Harry Froling to attempt exploiting the Panther’s nefarious paint defense.
“We have two short days to try and get that fixed before we play some high level teams in New York,” Stallings referring to Pitt’s body language, energy and focus on the floor.
Joe Cinello covers Pirates material for Pittsburgh Sports Castle. Connect with him on Facebook (Joey Cinello), Linkedin (Joseph Cinello) and Twitter (jcin13).