Pitt’s hot shooting hands the ‘Cats their second straight Loss
By Adam Beck
After losing to Auburn in the Cancun Challenge, the ‘Cats (5-2, 0-0 B1G) fell to Pitt (5-3, 0-0 ACC) on Monday 87-58.
Boo Buie’s 10 points, five assists and three rebounds on 4-10 shooting and Chase Audige’s 14 points, three rebounds, and three assists on 5-13 shooting were not enough for the ‘Cats to get back to their winning ways.
On a night where things ended up falling apart for the ‘Cats, the opening minutes were competitive. Chase Audige opened the scoring for Northwestern, knocking one down from deep, but after Jamarius Burton connected on a savvy mid-range jumper for the Panthers, a mix of good defense and sloppy offense from both sides kept the game tight.
The Panthers tried to attack the paint early, but the strong play of Robbie Beran and Tyler Verhoeven made things difficult inside for Pitt. The scrappy play defensively had the ‘Cats hit the 12-minute mark in the first half with the game tied at seven.
Audige continued to help Northwestern’s offense, driving inside and kicking a pass out to the corner for a Robbie Beran triple, giving the ‘Cats a 10-8 lead. Moments later, Audige converted one-of-two from the line after forcing a foul from Pitt’s Graham Diaz on a hard take to the rack, tying the game up at 13.
But the Panthers eventually found their groove. Greg Elliott was fouled on a three pointer by Boo Buie and after making all three free throws, Blake Hinson scored five straight for Pitt, knocking one down from out behind the arc while adding two from the line to give Pitt a 21-16 lead.
Adding to Pitt’s offense, Cummings got into a rhythm hitting two straight three pointers, extending the Panthers lead to 11 with five minutes remaining in the first half. Cummings sank his first three in the dying seconds of the shot clock, and his second over the outstretched arm of Robbie Beran following a hard jab step to create separation.
But Boo Buie and Northwestern showed signs of life. The senior point guard attacked the paint, using his probing dribble and soft touch to convert two straight buckets and cut the deficit to seven. Yet, even with Audige hitting a buzzer-beating three pointer in the dying seconds of the first half, the ‘Cats went back to the locker room at halftime down nine.
Back from break, Pitt increased their defensive intensity. Turning good defense into better offense, the Panthers leapt out to a 21-point lead four minutes into the second half thanks to a 14-2 run.
Pitt continued shooting the lights out from downtown and their lead continued to balloon. With seven minutes to go in the second half, Pitt was shooting 68% from three-point land as the ‘Cats could find no answer to slow Pitt’s scorching hot shooting.
After the game, Coach Collins made no excuses for the ‘Cats poor performance.
“We were uncharacteristically out of position a lot tonight,” Collins said.“We did not do a good job off the dribble…we were coming over because we had to try and take away layups and it was opening up open threes.”
With Pitt’s lead as large as 32 at times in the second half, the Panthers coasted to an 87-58 victory led by a balanced scoring attack from Hinson with 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Elliott with 18 points and four rebounds and Cummings who added 17 points, six assists and four rebounds.
Aside from their defensive struggles, the ‘Cats struggled getting inside, scoring just 18 points in the paint. After their first loss at home this season, Collins blatantly said, “We have to improve on [the offensive] end as we move forward.”
The ‘Cats will look to bounce back this Sunday as they open up their Big Ten schedule on the road against Michigan State at 6 p.m. CST.