On Saturday afternoon the Pittsburgh Panthers took on the Virginia Tech Hokies looking to correct an eight game skid. Pitt will look to capitalize on the Hokies missing senior guard Justin Robinson, who averages 14.4 points and a team leading 5.4 assists per game. The Hokies have looked incomplete without him, as they’ve lost two of their last three.
The Hokies came out strong, building an early lead thanks offensive rebounding and good shooting from the perimeter. Kene Chukwuka ran into early foul trouble as he accumulated two offensive fouls in the first 90 seconds of the game. By the second commercial timeout Pitt found themselves down 11. The panthers could only muster 6 points in the first eight minutes as their offense was plagued by turnovers and a lack of penetration. Pitt then came roaring back after the break as they ramped up the intensity on defense and started making shots on the perimeter. Trey McGowens looked to have his confidence back, as he made two triples that helped Pitt go on a 15-5 run as Tech made one field goal through an 11 minute stretch. Both teams traded points before Tech scored five points in the last minute to go into the break with a 31-26 lead. The Hokies held their lead at the half thanks to Kerry Blackshear and his 16 points. Xavier Johnson had a quiet half with only two points, while Sidy N’Dir led the Panthers with seven.
Neither team was able to get going in the second half as Pitt went cold from deep while the Hokies were plagued by turnovers. Blackshear continued his dominance with six points and four rebounds in the first eight minutes, while Pitt’s scoring was distributed among many players. With eight minutes left Nickeil Alexander-Walker joined Ahmed Hill by picking up his fourth foul, meaning the second and third highest scorers for the Hokies both went to the bench. Pitt wasn’t able to take advantage of this, as the Hokies hit three straight from downtown to force a Pitt timeout with five and a half minutes left, down 11. Pitt wasn’t able to come back from this deficit as they struggled mightily from the line, going five for ten in the last five minutes. Blackshear proved to be too much to handle for Pitt, as he posted 27 points and nine rebounds en route to a 70-64 Virginia Tech win.
Overall the Panthers played great defense but lost due poor perimeter shooting. They finished 6-22 from deep and 18-27 from the line, allowing the Hokies to hold onto their early lead. While the loss is disappointing, it was a great week for Pitt as they received commitments from Karim Coulibaly and Gerald Drumgoole, the first two commits in the 2019 class. Coulibaly, a four star center, looks to play right away and help the poor Pitt frontcourt. Drumgoole, a three star guard, will likely receive heavy minutes as the Panthers look to replace N’Dir and Jared Wilson-Frame.
Up next for the Panthers is an away game at Georgia Tech on Wednesday as they look to snap their now nine game losing streak.