Sadly, I think all of us saw this coming yesterday. Extremely difficult to go into a building we've never won in before in 25+ tries, play the top team in the conference who had something to really play for and shake off the program's most embarrassing loss since any of the blog's writers were students on the Main Line.
The team hung in there for a bit (or maybe it was just Wayns) but the game was played at Pitt's pace and it never really felt like we had a chance once they seized the lead in the second half. I remember talking with other alums who I watched the game with and the consensus was that a 5 point lead felt like 25. This team has struggled to score the basketball for a month against average defensive teams, it just was not in the cards last night.
More after The Jump.
I think, as we can all tell by now, when Corey Stokes is not in the lineup, this team struggle mightily in the half court. When looking at the box score, we can see themes that have plagued our losses all year:
1. Corey Fisher absolutely falling apart
Fisher was 3-14 from the field, 1-8 from downtown and manged to get to the line once where he proceeded to miss both attempts. It is very hard to have any faith in him getting it together down the stretch as he is mired in the worst slump of his career. I cannot understand why he refuses to take the ball to the basket. The injury has to be much more serious than anyone is letting on. This is a guy who has played great basketball for us for most of his career. It is absolutely crushing to see him finish his this way.
2. No-show by the front court
In what was a combination of not getting the touches and not being active enough, Pena and Yarou combined for 11 points and 8 rebounds (not a bad line for 1 of them but horrid for both) and only took 10 shots. The rebounding number is pathetic. These two were badly outplayed by a Pitt front court that was just flat out better. Their bigs looked more skilled, more athletic and like they just wanted to win more. Yarou's confidence looks to be at an all time low. I'm not sure what Jay envisioned to get out of him this year and honestly feel bad for the kid. He is a developing big man on a guard oriented team that doesn't really know how to use him. And due to his inconsistent role in the offense, he hasn't improved all year. This is probably the most damaging thing that has happened all year with respect to the future. Once the seniors graduate, he was supposed to be the second option on offense. He needs a Dante-like off season to get anywhere near this.
3. Absolutely nothing from the bench
The bench (including Cheek here despite him starting in Stokes' spot) combined to go 2 for 8 from the field and grab 10 rebounds in 69 minutes. Cheek took a measly 2 shots as the starting shooting guard in 21 minutes. Armwood did not take a shot, managed only 3 rebounds and collected 5 fouls in 24 minutes in the worst game of his career in my mind. Jay banished Taj Bell to the bench and only gave him 4 minutes of time. None of these guys seem to have any confidence.
Without Wayns, this game would've been a lot worse. He made 6-12 on threes, which is well beyond his expected output but showed a swagger about him that seems to be held back by his role sometimes. If Fisher is hurt, Jay needs to turn the reigns over to this kid now and pray that Stokes is able to come back. Fisher's biggest strength throughout his career has been his ability to get in the lane and draw contact. He just isn't doing this. I understand that if the injuries are this bad, the game plan yesterday had to be decidedly different than usual. We tried to out-Pitt Pitt. It just wasn't in the cards. If we don't make any adjustments, this season is going to go down as one of the most disappointing ones many of us have ever experienced.
All of this said, you can't totally hate the draw this team got. I actually think playing Tuesday against a far inferior USF team is more useful than a bye. This team needs a win so badly, Lane and I are considering asking if Jay wants to scrimmage the blog on Monday morning. We will provide the refs and skip work if it can help turn this thing around. Is it possible we could be one and done in the BET next week? Sure is. But I still believe that if we can get a couple wins under our belt against two teams we beat handily this year, there is a chance to get this thing back on track.
The one thing we really don't know about is health. But the talent has always been there. As hard as it is to do, now is the time to support this team more than ever. We have been spoiled by teams that for the most part have played up to and exceeded expectations the past few years (despite last year's collapse). Students and alums, come out to the Garden this week and show this team that the Nation is fully behind them. They need you more now than ever.