Pitt guard Jones takes away positives after loss to Hawaii
LAHAINA, Hawaii — Searching for positives, Pitt sophomore guard Chris Jones plucked this nugget from the Panthers’ 74-70 loss against Hawaii last week.
Leading early but unable to sustain momentum, Pitt succumbed to an emotional opponent that fed off an energetic and loud home cheering section.
It stands to reason, Jones surmised, that the Panthers — playing their first road game of the season — could benefit from facing tough road conditions, even in a loss, particularly when ACC play opens in January.
“I guess you could say if we take anything from this game it would be that,” Jones said before Monday night’s EA Sports Invitational matchup against Chaminade at Lahaina Civic Center. “It was a great atmosphere with a lot of energy, and they definitely used that.”
Jones started the first four games primarily because senior guard Cameron Wright is sidelined with a broken foot.
Already emerging as one of Pitt’s best outside shooters, Jones — like most young players — struggles defensively. Coach Jamie Dixon removed Jones early against Chaminade because of a missed defensive assignment.
“I’m thinking about how we did on the defensive end, and I need to pick it up there,” Jones said.
How much Jones plays when Wright returns —Dixon said Wright’s possible return date is Dec. 2 at Indiana — could be determined by his defensive effort.
Regardless, the Panthers need Jones’ offense.
He entered Monday’s game second on the team in scoring, averaging 11.7 points and shooting 53.8 percent from 3-point range.
Jones scored a career-high 19 points in 32 minutes against Hawaii. His 3-point baskets down the stretch aided the Panthers’ comeback attempt – albeit too little, too late.
Jones’ ability to hit from the outside helps counter defenses setting up in zones against the Panthers, who struggle to score inside with any consistency.
“We see it early, and we see it often,” Dixon said.
The Panthers know what’s coming when they run their offense. However, getting good shots against zones remains a work in progress.
“We felt like we could penetrate and kick it on their zone,” Jones said. “We tried to get the ball inside. (But) we didn’t execute that well, either.”
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.