PITTSBURGH – After a day like the one the Florida State men’s basketball team had today at Pittsburgh, it might be tempting to forget about it as quickly as possible and focus solely on the next game.
And given that the Seminoles play again in less than 48 hours, it would be easy to do.
To do that, however, would be to skip over some hard but necessary lessons. And the Seminoles were in the mood to learn following an 80-66 defeat to the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday at the Petersen Events Center.
“It’s not that I don’t like the quick turnaround,” freshman forward Jonathan Isaac said. “It’s that I don’t want to just walk away from this loss. This is one that I want to rewatch before I move on.”
The Seminoles (21-6, 9-5 ACC) have lost back-to-back games for just the second time this season and fell to 4-6 in games played away from the Donald L. Tucker Center.
That’s where they’ll be when they host Boston College on Monday.
“We’ve just got to be better,” junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes said. “We’ve got to execute at a higher level. We’ve got to move the basketball. And it starts defensively. We’re not playing defense the way we know how to play defense.”
That’s evidenced by Pitt shooting 51 percent from the field, as well as a damaging 45.5 percent from 3-point range.
The Panthers’ proficiency from range provided separation in a game in which the Seminoles held advantages in rebounding, bench points and points in the paint.
“That’s not an easy team to play – at all,” said Pitt coach Kevin Stallings, whose team has won three of its last four after an eight-game losing streak.
Rathan-Mayes led the Seminoles with 12 points, while Isaac chipped in 11 and Terance Mann had 10.
The most startling line on the box score, however, belonged to FSU’s Dwayne Bacon, who finished with zero points on an 0 for 4 night from the field.
Bacon, the team’s leading scorer who came into the contest averaging 17.4 points per game, had reached double digits in 35 consecutive games.
“I just think that every one of our guys will have one of those nights where they don’t play particularly well,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It just happened to be his night. I don’t think it was anything different that they did to him.”
Pitt’s Stallings echoed that sentiment.
“I don’t want to take a lot of credit for that,” he said. “I think maybe he just had an off day. Because, again, a guy goes scoreless, we don’t throw shutouts very often.”
Pitt (15-12, 4-10), meanwhile, enjoyed a performance from Sheldon Jeter that may have been just as unlikely as Bacon’s struggles.
A senior forward known more for his rebounding than scoring, Jeter on Saturday had a career-high 29 points while making 12 of his 14 field-goal attempts. That’s nearly 22 points better than his season average (7.6 point per game).
Jeter’s outburst meant that FSU could take little solace in slowing down Pitt’s dynamic duo of Jamel Artis (16 points) and Michael Young (11 points), both of whom finished well below their season averages.
“It was hard for our big guys to match up with (Jeter),” Hamilton said. “We didn’t have a matchup, so we went to a smaller lineup. And they gave us some energy but we couldn’t get over the hump.”
Thanks to an offense that took care of the ball and limited FSU’s transition offense, Pitt led by four at halftime and by as much as 15 after opening the second half on a 17-6 run.
But Florida State then bounced back and scored 19 of the next 25 points, a stretch which included a 10-0 run sparked by back-to-back buckets from Braian Angola-Rodas.
Rathan-Mayes’ layup with 6:19 to go brought the Seminoles to within two points, and had the 10,525 in attendance mostly quiet.
But Pitt scored on its next possession and, following FSU misses at the free-throw line and near the basket, extended its lead to seven when Jeter drained one of his four 3-pointers.
FSU made just one of its final 10 shot attempts while being outscored 14-4 over the final five-plus minutes.
“You use a lot of energy, sometimes, cutting into that lead,” Hamilton said. “And (Pitt) is real smart, they’re and older, more mature and I thought over time they regained their composure and executed.”