February 29, 2004

My feelings on the game have been, shall we say, jumbled. One minute raging at the officials; the next looking to Pitt’s free throw shooting; then to poor shooting; then thinking we were due to lose one like this; and so on. Suffice to say, I’m disappointed. Ultimately, this is the game any Pitt fan had to fear was coming — a game that could have been won at the free throw line. Losing a game because of foul shots was something Pitt fans knew was coming for some time, but the longer it took the more surprising it seemed.

Let me get this out of the way now. The refs in this game sucked. They were horribly inconsistent. Calling bad fouls on both sides, with even worse make-up calls without any coherence. Pitt, though, did not lose the game because the refs sucked. Pitt lost on their own merit, poor shooting and worse free throw shooting. The poor refereeing only made it more painful because it was an external factor that couldn’t be blamed on the Panthers.

Okay, game notes. Box score and play by play are here.

The game on CBS being called by Verne Lundquist with Billy Packer on color. No real opinion or distaste per se. They came in to the game a minute late. Pitt has a 2-0 lead, and the place sounds pumped.

Page shoots an airball for his first shot at 17:50, never a good sign. Page needs to get the baskets falling early. His game, offensively, is dictated early by how he shoots. If the shots fall, he’s good. If they don’t, it just gets worse.

At around 16 minutes, it is 4-2 Syracuse. The refs seem to be keeping their whistles in their pockets underneath the boards. for now. Pitt is putting up the shots, but they are not rolling or bouncing in. Pitt is able to pass the ball to the inside and back out, but the shots aren’t falling. Not completely unlike the way the last game started between the two.

Have I mentioned this is an ugly game?

Big foul called on Hakim Warrick of Syracuse at the 12:54 mark. It is his second. Amazingly, Boeheim doesn’t take him out. Pitt has to push the ball inside and challenge Warrick. If Warrick can get 3 fouls before the end of the 1st half, Pitt can quickly put this game out of reach.

At the 11 minute mark Pitt is up 13-5. Only 18 points total in this game through 9 minutes. The Orangemen’s 2-3 zone has been useless against Pitt to this point because of the effective interior passing. Pitt just hasn’t been able to get the shots to fall. For Syracuse, they can’t seem to do anything on offense. They use a lot of the shot clock trying to get a shooter free and have already turned the ball over twice on shotclock violations.

Page gets his first points on a fastbreak layup with 3:28 in the first half. He had missed his first 3 shots and Syracuse had gone on a 11-3 run prior to that to close to within a point. Warrick has not come out of the game, but Pitt hasn’t been driving against him and he hasn’t picked up another foul.

On the plus side, Gerry McNamara is totally frustrated. He hasn’t scored a point. Page has him blanketed. Without Edelin, McNamara is unable to create separation or get an open shot.

At halftime it is 22-19 Pitt. Painfully ugly game, that you have to believe favors Pitt. One negative is that they couldn’t or didn’t take advantage of the inside game to try and force Warrick into a 3rd foul in the first half. That could have broken the game wide open. The other is that Pitt seemed to stop working the boards after 10 minutes. At around the 11 minute mark, CBS showed a graphic where Pitt had out rebounded ‘Cuse 11-4. By halftime, Pitt only held a 16-14 rebounding advantage. There is no excuse for that since Warrick was in foul trouble.

Both teams shot just under 35%. Neither team can shoot that badly in the second half, can they?

The halftime report shows that Seth Davis wasn’t paying attention to this game. He says that with Gerry McNamara held scoreless, Pitt looks good with a 3 point lead. Huh?

The only interesting thing out of the halftime report is the news that the NCAA will tweak the RPI to better account for home and away wins.

Second half is just as ugly. Pitt doesn’t get a score until nearly 5 minutes into the half. Pitt retakes the lead 25-23. Pitt is playing a sloppy game on offense. They seem almost surprised that their physical play isn’t forcing Syracuse to back down — did Pitt come to believe they invented physical play in the Big East?

Just as Pitt takes a 30-25 lead, and the Pete starts getting excited, then McCarroll commits the lazy foul by being out of position.

The refs miss a foul underneath the Pitt basket, and Dixon gets called for the technical. Packer and Lundquist are surprised by how quickly they call it, and the replay shows that Dixon had a point. Karma for the call against Calhoun a couple weeks ago? I don’t know. Just, when calls like that happen, the fear and doubt starts lurking larger.

Suddenly Syracuse has the lead and Pitt can’t get it back. Poor free throw shooting and just poor shooting in general starts to catch up with Pitt. Somehow Hakim Warrick has kept playing and only picks up foul #3 at the 9 minute mark. Part of it is just wasted opportunities by Pitt, and part is a strange inconsistency by the refs to call interior fouls.

Warrick then picks up foul #4 away from the ball near the 6 minute mark. The CBS crew speculates that it was something of a ticky-tack make-up call because it was away from the ball, but their own replays shows Warrick putting an elbow to Troutman twice before the whistle blew. Still Boeheim leaves him out on the floor with Syracuse up 37-34 — and Pitt still can’t take advantage of this.

Billy Packer is annoying the crap out of me. He keeps saying Krauser is their only perimeter shooter. He obviously hasn’t seen Pitt until now. Page and Brown are both perimeter shooters, but their shots aren’t falling. Page has no confidence at the moment, and Brown, while not a 3-point threat is a mid-range shooter.

Syracuse has gone from a 2-3 to more of a 1-4 zone. More just one guy rotating out to the perimeter. They are crowding the basket to get the boards.

Mind-blowingly bad officiating again. Krauser gets called for an offensive foul when Roberts was shuffling his feet to try to block Krauser. Krauser then gets a late whistle for a reach-in foul, his 5th, to send McNamara to the line. CBS can’t edit out the very, very clear crowd chants of “Bull S**t” for that one. Still, it is only 42-38 with a little over a minute to go.

Page finally nails a 3 to make it a 1 point game. Wow!

Warrick commits a choke-like travel to give us the Jim Boeheim — “how can you call that?” face. The face then goes to the “I don’t f***in’ believe it” face when Forth commits his 5th foul on Troutman with 3.2 seconds left, and Pitt desperately trying to find a shot. Like I said, bad, inconsistent officiating.

Troutman hits the first to tie the game, but misses the second. All I can think is, not making them when you need to today, huh, Jamie?

The refs blow it again. Syracuse should have had the ball with 6-tenths of a second (at least) but the refs refused to give the timeout and so it goes to overtime.

This is the first overtime at the Pete. Not good. Pitt didn’t make a single fieldgoal going 0-5. They went 4-6 from the line, but that only raised Pitt’s FT shooting to 9-17 for the game.

Pitt lost 49-46.

This game was disturbing because it was the second straight game that Pitt played poorly. They won against Georgetown strictly on talent and conditioning. This time, they were playing a team that can win tough games. Page played another sub-par game. The whole team played like it believed this was merely a formalilty. I had almost become convinced that Pitt wasn’t going to fall into the trap of believing it’s own clippings, but then this game. Clearly, they let themselves get caught up in looking to the NCAA Tourney.

Now the questions can be answered only by quickly putting this game behind them and going on the road to beat a very good Providence team on Tuesday. Otherwise, Pitt suddenly looks soft and beatable.

Anticipation and Nervous Sensations

Filed under: Uncategorized — Chas @ 12:57 pm

Maybe it’s just the lead-up to the game, but I’m getting nervous about Pitt. The game will be on in the Cleveland area — 4pm CBS, and the line I saw in the sports section had Pitt favored by a whopping 10.5 points. Yes, I know Pitt kicked their ass by 21 last time, their talented but troubled point guard Edelin is out for “personal reasons,” Pitt is unbeaten at the Pete (34-0), and hasn’t lost a home game since the 2001-2002 season (40-0).

I guess it’s just that the Pittsburgh papers are too filled with stories about Pitt going to the NCAA Tourney as a likely #1 seed. Even a column, supposedly about how people ignore the regular season Big East title because of the Conference and NCAA Tourney, seems more about warning the fans that the NCAA has a way of breaking hearts. Then another column about how tough it is to win in the NCAA, even as the #1 seed, according to Syracuse Coach Boeheim. It is just too much right now. Even this shrill, tiresome Smizik column about fans charging the floor after wins — something Pitt fans have happily avoided doing — seems to expect the game to be a mere formality to getting the W, “If all goes as expected, sometime around 6 p.m. today there will be cause for celebration at the Petersen Events Center.”

There is a big game against a Syracuse team that is and should be looking for revenge and redemption against Pitt. They are talented, and they are fully capable of beating Pitt. Don’t kid yourself, consider this scouting report on Pitt

“(To beat them) I think you’ve got to shoot it well from the outside and stand up to their toughness. You can’t have a night where two or three of your guys decide to play soft.”

Syracuse has the outside shooters, especially McNamara. Taft has gotten in a lot of early foul trouble lately. If Pitt doesn’t shoot well, Pitt can lose.

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