Despite Loss, Capel, Pitt Appreciative of Support

Panthers doomed by cold stretch, but looking ahead

Josh Rowntree
January 05, 2019 - 3:25 pm
Pittsburgh Panthers guard Au'Diese Toney (5) dives for a loose ball against North Carolina Tar Heels forward Luke Maye (32) and guard Leaky Black (1) during the second half at the Petersen Events Center

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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It had been a while but, for a few moments, the Petersen Events Center looked and sounded like the Pete of old. 

Pitt hung tough with No. 15 North Carolina for eight minutes, before a game-defining cold shooting stretch in which the Panthers did not score for over six minutes and failed to make a field goal for over ten minutes. 

The results was an 85-60 loss to the Tar Heels. 

After the game, Pitt coach Jeff Capel started his press conference by thanking the 12,508 in attendance, Pitt’s first sellout off the season. 

“I am incredibly grateful of the crowd that we had today,” he said. “It’s something we certainly do not take for granted. I’m very appreciative of the energy that was in the building, from all of the fans, especially the Oakland Zoo.”

While there was a fair amount of Caolina blue spattered through the stands, the opening minutes were loudly in favor of the Panthers, particularly after freshman guard Xavier Johnson slammed home a breakaway dunk to even the game at 8-8. 

“It was definitely a huge game,” redshirt junior Malik Ellison said. “We had a lot of fans that came out today to support us, and they had fans to support them, as well .It was a packed house, sold out.”

The end result, however, was one all-too-familiar with Panthers fans, as North Carolina was able to push its lead to 33, at one point, in the second half. But the early momentum and raucous crowd is, perhaps, a look at what use to be and what could be in the future.

“Obviously we have abetter team this year, so the game was more hyped up, I feel like,” Ellison said. “We have a lot of new guys playing, as well. And, even guys from last year, they never played in a crowd that quite looked like that. It was definitely different for us. It was good that we got to be able to experience that, but we’ve just got to build off that game.”

Capel trusts his team is heading in the right direction, even if some of the criticism from the Kevin Stallings era spreads onto this current group of players.

“I’m pretty sure there will be stuff written, same old [Pitt],” Capel said. “That’s what people can think, or whatever. But it’s not the same Pitt. We’re going to continue to fight. We’re going to continue to get better.”

The Panthers will be back in action Wednesday against ACC foe Louisville, an 8 p.m. start at the Petersen Events Center. 

Hear all of what Jeff Capel had to say below.