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Pitt’s Kevin Stallings tries ‘to accentuate the positive’

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DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 20: Head coach Kevin Stallings of the Pittsburgh Panthers reacts during their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 20, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh head coach Kevin Stallings waits to put his startling lineup back into the game against Georgia Tech during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Jared Wickerham)

While Pitt stumbles toward the end of the first half of its ACC season, coach Kevin Stallings’ job gets increasingly more difficult.

If Pitt (8-12, 0-7) loses at N.C. State on Wednesday night at Petersen Events Center, the resulting eight-game losing streak will match the school’s longest in conference play since joining the ACC in 2013. Pitt also lost eight conference games in a row last season.

Which leaves Stallings looking to keep his players encouraged, with 11 games left before the ACC Tournament in March.

“My job primarily is to accentuate the positive with these guys,” he said.

Actually, he found something he liked during the 81-54 loss at Duke on Saturday.

“We had 11 turnovers in the first half and then four in the second half,” he said. “I was able to talk about the fact that we played better in the second half. We took better care of the ball.”

That could have been a result of Duke coasting to a victory after scoring 48 points in the first half and leading by 22 at halftime.

But Stallings will consider that a plus for his team that has struggled with ball care all season. Pitt is last in the ACC and 303rd in the nation in turnovers per game (15.1).

That’s probably the main reason the Panthers are averaging only 53.7 points in their seven ACC games — last in the conference and 7.3 points fewer than the next-to-last team (Georgia Tech, 61.0).

Shot selection has been poor, too. Pitt is shooting 38.7 percent from the field since the start of conference play, 14th in the 15-team league.

All of it contributes to Stallings’ dilemma.

“That’s the most difficult part,” he said. “When you don’t have wins to show for it.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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