Panthers ousted from NIT, end season in disappointment
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
Cameron Wright and Aron Phillips-Nwankwo hung their heads in distress as they exited the Petersen Events Center for the final uniformed time Tuesday night. The seniors knew they’d given their best against George Washington. Still, the Panthers collectively registered epic lows in a hideous 60-54 first-round NIT loss before a paid crowd of 3,049 fans so placid that personalized heckles rung about the cavernous arena all evening.
“It was bad,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said of his team’s performance. “There’s no other way to say it. It was just bad decisions, bad plays and [they were] uncharacteristic at the same time.”
Also uncharacteristic was the fact that, with the loss, Pitt worsened to 19-15. An NCAA Tournament bid was Pitt’s to lose just three weeks ago, as the Panthers were 19-10, but they will now conclude the season under the 20-win landmark for the first time since Dixon took to the helm at Pitt in 2003.
“Obviously, we have a disappointed group,” Dixon said. “I know we are better team than what we played —– this is how we perform. We had good practices, and I know the guys were excited about playing, so I can’t fault our effort and the fact we outrebounded them would suggest as much.”
Pitt outrebounded the Colonials 41-35 despite pulling in a mere six offensive rebounds. Pitt missed free throws, shooting 8 of 18, and the Panthers hit just two of 11 attempted 3-pointers and committed 16 turnovers.
“Certainly the turnovers really hurt us, some of the passes and decisions we made are not what we normally do. We had opportunities, we fought back, it just got to a stretch where we couldn’t make the shot and we missed some free throws,” he added.
Wright led Pitt in scoring with 11 points and Jamel Artis gave Pitt 10 points. Artis led in rebounding with nine, while Michael Young and James Robinson each collected eight rebounds apiece. Pitt, which has received decent bench production this season, got just 12 points from its reserves Tuesday, while GW’s Kethan Savage, a non-starter, had 17 points alone.
The NIT experimented with a 30-second shot clock this year. Pitt, which plays at one of the slowest paces in Division I, appeared rattled by the five-second difference Tuesday, but Robinson said after the game that it made no difference and that his team was properly prepared for the challenge.