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Pitt big man Rozelle Nix becomes program’s fifth transfer this offseason

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Pitt lost its fifth player to transfer on Monday as big man Rozelle Nix announced on Twitter that he is leaving the program. The 6-foot-11 Nix was a reserve center for the Panthers this past season as he plans on graduating in August and becoming immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.

Nix is a former transfer from Pensacola Junior College who missed the 2015-16 season with a foot injury before returning to the court this season. Appearing sparingly as he tried to play himself back into shape, Nix only played 126 minutes during the 2016-17 season for the Panthers.

While Nix isn’t an important loss for the Panthers, he is the sixth player–including a decommitment from former Class of 2017 recruit Aaron Thompson– to leave the program who could have played for Pitt next season.

Coming off of a 16-17 campaign and 4-14 finish in the ACC, head coach Kevin Stallings is going to have to rebuild the roster, basically from scratch, but he expected most of the departures this offseason to take place. In an interview last week with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Stallings was asked about all of the transfers and how he’ll handle things from here.

“I could have told you months ago ‘I would expect this guy to leave and this guy to leave and this guy to leave,'” Stallings said to the Post-Gazette. We had a couple of unexpected departures. We didn’t expect the thing with Cam [Johnson]. We didn’t expect the thing with Aaron Thompson, though that wasn’t a departure. It’s a guy you’ve invested time in recruiting. I think that in the present state and environment of college basketball, that’s becoming more the norm than the exception. And I’m talking more about the unexpected departures. I think any time you take over a program, you know there are going to be some departures. You don’t know from the outset who it’s going to be, but you know there are going to be some.”

Pitt rebuilding in a very deep ACC is going to be very difficult and Stallings needs to land some new talent to build with. While the Panthers have some decent recruits coming in, like guard Marcus Carr and junior college wing Jared Wilson-Frame, Pitt is going to need many more players to compete in one of the toughest leagues in the country.

Perrantes leads No. 23 Virginia past Pitt, 67-42

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Virginia coach Tony Bennett waited after No. 23 Virginia’s 67-42 victory against Pittsburgh was over, and then waited again until London Perrantes had finished a postgame television interview before putting his arm around the point guard and walking off the court.

It was what Bennett’s father, Dick, did with him after his last college game, and seemed a fitting way to honor his lone senior.

“We’ve had so many special players, but he’s been the catalyst for what’s happened,” Bennett said of the guard from Los Angeles, who has started more games than anyone in Cavaliers history and helped transform the program into an annual national contender.

“That brought me great joy just to be able to do that,” Bennett said.

Perrantes made his Senior Day special, too, by scoring 22 points and helping to foil the Panthers’ defensive game plan. He made four of Virginia’s 11 3-pointers, including two in succession late in the game before Bennett removed him to a standing ovation with 1:57 to play.

“Just knowing it’s not over is huge,” Perrantes said, “as long as I’ve got some more games to play with the team and coaching staff.”

Freshman Ty Jerome, the likely replacement as Virginia’s starting point guard next season, added three 3-pointers and 13 points as the Cavaliers (21-9, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their third straight. They also avenged an 88-76 loss in overtime at Pittsburgh in January.

“Our No. 1 thing we talked about was taking away 3s,” first-year coach Kevin Stallings said after his team’s fourth consecutive loss. “They feed off of them, and we were not able to do that, obviously.”

When he was pulled from the game, Perrantes hugged his apprentice at midcourt before departing.

“I said, `It’s not yours yet. It’s not your program yet. I’ve still got some games left to play,”‘ Perrantes said he told Jerome.

Jerome has said repeatedly that he’s siphoned as much knowledge from Perrantes as he could.

“I only got to spend this year with him, but he’s been phenomenal on and off the court, especially with me and the relationship we’ve built in such a short amount of time,” Jerome said. “I’m going to miss him, but we still have more basketball to play.”

The Panthers, meanwhile, might not have much more to play this year.

Michael Young scored 14 points to lead Pittsburgh (15-16, 4-14), but the Panthers played the first 10 minutes without Young or Jamel Artis after both were late for a team function. When the team’s top two scorers finally checked in with 9:54 left in the half, Virginia led 19-2.

“We’re trying to establish a culture here of doing the right thing, being accountable and responsible,” Stallings said.

Pittsburgh missed 13 of its first 14 field goal attempts. It was the Panthers’ 12th consecutive road loss against a ranked opponent.

BIG PICTURE

Pittsburgh: The Panthers head into the ACC Tournament having lost four in a row, and of greater concern to Stallings might be the idea that Young (20.1 ppg) and Artis (18.9 ppg) have been their dominant offensive weapons, and both are seniors.

Virginia: The Cavaliers appear to have their swagger back, not only on defense, where they lead the nation in scoring defense, but on offense. Perrantes has emerged from a shooting drought and Jerome and fellow freshman Kyle Guy have played, and scored, more of late.

HE SAID IT

“I don’t think anybody wants to play us right now.” – Perrantes.

NUMBERS GAME

Virginia entered the game leading the nation in scoring defense (55.3 ppg), and during its winning streak, has held North Carolina State (55), No. 5 North Carolina (43) and Pittsburgh (42) to an average of 46.7 points. … The Cavaliers forced 14 turnovers and outscored the Panthers 27-0 off takeaways. Virginia turned it over just seven times. … The Cavaliers finished 11 for 22 on 3-pointers. Pitt was 4 for 20.

UP NEXT

Both teams will play next in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

Follow Hank on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

No. 12 North Carolina outlasts Pitt

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After looking sluggish in a loss at Miami on Saturday, No. 12 North Carolina bounced back with a 80-78 win over Pitt at home in the ACC on Tuesday night.

The Tar Heels (20-4, 8-2) maintained a consistent lead on the Panthers for most of the game but could never seem to put them away, as Pitt cut the lead to one twice with under two minutes left. But the Tar Heels were finally able to put things away

Junior Justin Jackson finished with a game-high 20 points as 13 of those points came during a very efficient first half. After some recent mediocre performances, point guard Joel Berry bounced back with 19 points on 5-for-9 three-point shooting as he looked much more comfortable against Pitt.

Things were also easy for Isaiah Hicks on the interior as he was 6-for-8 from the field for 18 points and eight rebounds while Kennedy Meeks had 10 points and five boards.

North Carolina shot 50 percent from the field (29-for-58) and made a respectable 37 percent of their three-pointers on Tuesday.

Perimeter defense is going to have to improve for the Tar Heels, but they ultimately got big offensive plays from experienced veterans to improve to 12-0 at home this season.

The Panthers (12-10, 1-8) had a great comeback effort and some critical late shots but they just couldn’t get over the hump and gain the lead in this one. Guard Cameron Johnson was impressive as his six three-pointers helped him to a game-high 24 points as he provided a much-needed scoring boost for Michael Young (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Jamel Artis (17 points). Chris Jones also added 12 points for the Panthers.

This is Pitt’s first seven-game losing streak since the 2011-12 season as this team is struggling in ACC play. It was the defense that was the letdown for Kevin Stallings’ group on Tuesday as they couldn’t get critical stops when they needed to late in the game. The Panthers went 13-for-29 from three-point range and still lost because North Carolina was able to get pretty much anything they wanted.

Pitt has a chance to play the role of spoiler for some teams down the stretch but the defense has to get better.

No. 14 Louisville holds on for win over Pitt

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Louisville jumped out to a big early lead and barely held on from there as the No. 14 Cardinals used an up-and-down effort to capture an 85-80 ACC home win over Pitt.

It looked like a rout might be on for Louisville in this one as they jumped out to a 47-26 halftime lead and led by double-digits for most of the second half. But the Cardinals offense slowed down in the second frame as a scoreless stretch and some turnovers let the Panthers creep back in the game.

Pitt closed the lead to five points with under a minute left but ultimately fell short as the Panthers had their second consecutive miserable start to a game that ultimately buried them in the end as they attempted to rally.

Louisville (13-3, 2-2) was paced by Quentin Snider, as the junior point guard had a solid outing with 22 points and five assists. Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel added 15 points each for Louisville while Ray Spalding added 11 points and eight rebounds.

For as great as Louisville looked in the first half, they looked equally as awful in the second half. Against a team like Pitt at home, the Cardinals can get away with a split effort like that, but Louisville is going to need to play a more consistent 40 minutes to beat a lot of the better teams in the ACC.

While Louisville’s second-half struggles are a bit concerning there is some intrigue with how this team played in the first half. The Cardinals looked like a force on both ends of the floor as they mixed and matched a lot of unique lineups and gave Pitt fits.

I particularly liked Louisville’s one small-ball look in which Spalding spent some time at the five because it gives the Cardinals the option to play five long and athletic players that make it tough to advance the ball against. If Spalding can do a good enough job of protecting the rim and rebounding as the five in that lineup that could be a look that Rick Pitino turns to more often.

Louisville has a strong stretch of four games coming up where they get Duke at home on Saturday, Clemson at home next week and then back-to-back road games at Florida State and Pitt. It’ll be be interesting to see how the Cardinals look against Duke on Saturday after their horrible second half, since the Blue Devils are coming off of a loss at Florida State and will likely come out aggressive.

Jamel Artis had a monster night and did everything he could to keep Pitt in this game but the senior didn’t have enough help. Artis finished with 43 points but Michael Young was the only other double-figure scorer for the Panthers with 17 points.

Pitt (12-5, 1-3) is going to need more from guys outside of Artis and Young to beat the upper-echelon teams of the ACC, but that isn’t any sort of new revelation that we didn’t know already.

 

 

VIDEO: Steve Vasturia late overtime 3 lifts No. 24 Notre Dame past Pitt

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Notre Dame needed overtime and a late three from senior Steve Vasturia to push itself past Pitt for a road ACC win on Saturday.

The No. 24 Irish were down by two with time winding down when Vasturia pump faked and created the go-ahead three. Notre Dame’s road win was important since teams like Duke and North Carolina fell to unranked teams earlier in the day.

Pitt lands key junior college commitment

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Pitt and new head coach Kevin Stallings landed a key commitment on Friday as junior college wing Jared Wilson-Frame pledged to the Panthers.

The 6-foot-5 Wilson-Frame is attending Northwest Florida State College as he averaged 15.4 points per game. Also a prominent player during his high school career, Wilson-Frame was a standout for Expressions Elite in the Nike EYBL.

A power wing who can attack the basket and make plays around the rim, Wilson-Frame becomes the fourth member of the Class of 2017 to commit to Pitt as he joins point guard Aaron Thompson, guard Marcus Carr and big man Terrell Brown. Wilson-Frame will have two years of eligibility left once he starts at Pitt.

Overall, this is a solid four-man recruiting class for Stallings in his first year at Pitt as he’s recruited multiple spots for his rotation. It’s also interesting to see Stallings go the juco route in recruiting since his old job at Vanderbilt didn’t allow him to easily land players from that approach.