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NCAA Basketball Big East BasketballPittsburgh Panthers

Losing to Cincinnati Proves the Pittsburgh Panthers Are Still A Work In Progress

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Despite a late comeback attempt, the Pittsburgh Panthers opened their conference schedule with a 70-61 loss to the Cincinnati Bearcats.

The Bearcats held a seven point lead with under two minutes remaining before a Panthers run made it look like Cincinnati was about to cough up the lead. Pittsburgh’s Talib Zanna was fouled while nailing his shot attempt, sending him to the line for a three-point play opportunity. Zanna missed the free-throw attempt but Dante Taylor managed to put the ball in the bucket on a putback attempt for the Panthers.

Suddenly down only three points, Tray Woodall then stole the ball for Pittsburgh off Cincinnati’s inbound attempt and was immediately fouled. Woodall went to the line for one-and-one opportunity and missed the first free throw. The Panthers would never be within three points again.

Woodall’s missed free throw attempt was the most painful example of the Panthers awful shooting from the foul line. Pittsburgh went 15-25 from the free throw line as the team showed they are a work in progress.

The Panthers led 34-26 at half before Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright led the way for a big Bearcats run to take control of the game. Pittsburgh had no answers on the offensive end as the team struggled to shoot from the foul line and went 0 for 10 from three point range.

Zanna, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, was still effective as he finished with 16 points and five rebounds. However, freshman center Steven Adams didn’t even record a shot in 24 minutes before foul trouble saw him get nailed to the bench. He still contributed with nine rebounds and one assist but given Cincinnati’s vulnerability on the inside, the Panthers needed to force Adams the ball and make him be a factor offensively. The first-year player came into the game only averaging 7.3 points, but he’s still shooting 62.3% from the field and has shown he can score in double-figures.

It’s baffling the team didn’t try to attack the paint more often because by playing the perimeter game they played right into Cincinnati’s strength. Trying to go toe-to-toe against Kilpatrick and Wright is the last thing the Panthers needed as Kilpatrick sits fourth in conference scoring and Wright is 16th.

Pittsburgh showed the type of team they can be with their first half performance. However, the Big East is full of high scoring guards, and the Panthers don’t have consistent high-level scorers on the perimeter.

If the team wants to be successful in conference action, they need to play through their post-players by getting Adams involved and Zanna more touches.

Michael covers ACC and Big East basketball along with the Toronto Raptors for Rant Sports, you can follow him on Twitter @MichaelxRoberts