TALLAHASSEE – Even layups seemed difficult for Florida State to convert.
A lousy shooting performance from the Seminoles (13-10, 6-7 ACC) resulted in their 56-51 loss to Pittsburgh (9-16, 4-10) at the Tucker Civic Center on Wednesday. They shot 16 of 56 (28.6%) and finished 7 of 24 (29.2%) from beyond the arc.
FSU played without three significant contributors in guard Anthony Polite (wrist), forward Malik Osborne (foot) and Naheem McLeod (hand). All three of them are out indefinitely after undergoing surgery on their injuries.
In their absence, the Seminoles struggled to generate opportunities. When they needed a bucket, no one could create much offense. And when the rare opportunity presented itself, they often failed to take advantage. They missed nine layups on 13 attempts and only dunked twice. There were also far too many airballs.
“We had several point-blank layups that we just didn’t finish,” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “That has been a problem. Answering that makes it seem like an excuse. But the bottom line is, we’ve got to make them. I can say inexperience. I can say first-year players. But the bottom line is, that’s part of the development process.”
Guards Caleb Mills (19) and Matthew Cleveland (12) reached double figures, but they combined for 10 of 29 shooting. Sophomore forward Cam’Ron Fletcher added nine points. All other Seminole players shot a combined 3 of 20 (15%) from the field. None of them recorded more than four points.
The Panthers don’t exactly boast a stingy defense. They entered the game ranked No. 164 nationally in KenPom.com defensive efficiency and tied for No. 119 in scoring defense (67 points allowed per game). And this time last week, Pittsburgh yielded 91 points in a loss at Wake Forest.
“Offensively, I thought in the first half we were a little impatient until about the 10-minute mark,” Hamilton said. “I thought we executed a lot better (after that point). We got great shots when we moved the ball. We couldn’t make any of them.
“In the second half, I thought that we made some inexperienced mistakes. We took an ill-advised shot or two. Misread each other. Turned the ball over. In a close game like that, the team that plays with the most savvy down the stretch will probably win.”
Falling to Pittsburgh should be considered a season low for FSU. Even with the win, the Panthers still have the worst overall winning percentage (0.36) among ACC teams. And though they were short handed, the Seminoles were still favored by double-digits.
They are now on a five-game losing streak for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
“We can’t get any consistency on the offensive end,” Hamilton said. “Our guys are giving decent effort. Obviously we could play a little bit harder and with more of what we call juice. But when you are executing and can’t make those shots, sometimes it has a tendency to take the enthusiasm away. That is what happens when you are less experienced.
“Older, more mature guys, they turn it up when they face adversity. This is part of what we are. We’ve got to grow into being more resilient.
“That when things are not going well, we turn it up on the defensive end and on the rebounding end. It overcompensates what you might lack sometimes in your execution and experience on the offensive end.”
Ithiel Horton’s hot night
Both teams were desperate to find answers offensively in the first half, which ended with Pittsburgh leading 21-20.
The Panthers eventually found their solution: Ithiel Horton. The University of Delaware transfer guard connected on five three-pointers in the second half. He finished with a game-high 25 points on 8 of 16 shooting.
Horton had only played in five other games this season and averaged just 6.4 points from that span. He matched his season total of three-pointers against FSU with seven on 13 attempts.
Hamilton said FSU prioritized stopping forward John Hugley inside. He came into the game leading Pittsburgh in points (14.2) and rebounds (8.1) per game.
“They isolated in the second half,” Hamilton said. “They went to all isolation and one-on-one dribbles. They were forcing us to help and kicking it to Horton. And he made shots. They would move the ball, set some screens and wait to get to the matchup that they wanted and drive. It forced us to have to get some help.
“So you have to pick your poison. Do you give them help to stop their leading scorer inside? That made it very hard for us to get to Horton on the perimeter.”
The Seminoles switching to a zone late in the second half slowed the Panther offense. After Pittsburgh tallied two points across a seven-minute stretch, FSU tied the game at 41. But the Panthers then found another hot shooter: Jamarius Burton. Pittsburgh’s last four buckets, including one three-pointer, all came from Burton.
When excluding Horton and Burton, the Panthers shot 3 of 29 from the field and 0-10 from deep. But their production was enough with how much the Seminoles sputtered offensively.
“The one thing they did when you look at their overall shooting percentage, they went to the one guy who they thought could consistently make baskets. Our defense did pretty well on everyone else with the exception of the one guy. And they were smart enough to make sure to get the ball to the guy they felt could make the shots.”
FSU will travel to play North Carolina (17-7, 9-4) at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Reach Carter Karels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Florida State basketball's poor shooting leads to loss to Pittsburgh