February 19, 2007

If you have ESPN Full Court, you’ll find it there. If you are checking your regional provider — MSG, Fox Sports Pittsburgh, MASN, Comcast SportsNet (West) have the game live.

8:10: Pitt trails 9-4, 15:12. Shots are not falling. I mean they are good looks, and some of them look like they are halfway down before coming out. Lovely. Shooting woes continue.

Why is Sam Young settling for jumpers? It’s not like Seton Hall has anyone taking space in the middle. They are giving so much space, they are begging Pitt to take jumpers, though.

8:22: Pitt down 16-10, 11:10 in the half. Starting to drive a little more — barely. It’s hard to resist taking those open jumpers. Even when they are not falling. The thing is, Pitt has such a depth advantage they need to go inside. They need to force Seton Hall to expend a lot of energy and hopefully get into foul trouble. This is a game Pitt has to show it can win w/o Gray.

8:31: Pitt now up 23-21. Biggs has come off the bench and done well. He’s been active inside and had a nice shot going (that 3 that rimmed out, notwithstanding). Young and Cook — the two of them did not look good on the court at the same time. Neither wanted to play defense — this run by Pitt started with both of them out. Graves finally realized he needs to drive, with his shots not going.

8:37: This is the kind of game, that you want to see which players will step up without Gray. I think this matters to the coaches. Not just for next year but for the NCAA Tournament. It seems that this is the kind of test to see which players respond and step up, when there is no fall-back with Gray. Which players will give the coaches what they are asking and need. Did I use enough cliches?

8:46: Geez. Hate that. Harvey got the mid-court shot at the buzzer 3, to put the Hall down 30-26. Looks like the time on the bench got the attention of both Cook and Gray. Much better effort on both sides of the ball.

Love the team effort on rebounding. That was a necessity without Gray. The team is shooting 13-27. Kendall, Biggs and Ramon all have 6. Graves and Cook have 4.

For Seton Hall, Jamar Nutter has done the job with 11 points. Only 4 players have scored for the Pirates. 7 Pitt players have scored.

The steals by Seton Hall, aren’t totally shocking. That is what they do a lot of to keep them in games.

9:06: How the hell wasn’t Kendall fouled?

9:09: 14:31 left, Pitt up 39-33; Harvey heading to the FT line for the Pirates. Kendall’s looking a little pissed out there now — at least on offense. Good.

Did everyone else scream “NO!” when Young looked like he was going to take a 3?

9:27: Twice,inside, Cook has moved it right to Young for the basket.

9:36: 7:16 left, Pitt up 52-45. Mike Cook heading to the FT line. Eugene Harvey is keeping the Pirates in this game by penetrating and drawing contact. The refs let them play inside, but call the bumps when guards or forwards drive the basket. That’s why Pitt isn’t getting as many FT shots.

9:45: I fear writing this game off too soon, but this has been the way most Seton Hall games play out. They play tough and tight for a long part of the game, but then fade as they start wearing down and the other team simply is better and deeper.

10:17: Okay, I apologize for nearly jinxing the team with the previous entry. Pitt hung on for the 71-68 win. Frustrating to watch the team struggle against the press that everyone knew was coming.

Better free throw shooting — though any misses at the end make things scary. Pitt shot better than 50% for the game. They just struggled to take any shots in the final minute and a half.
Seton Hall, specifically Eugene Harvey, lived at the line in the second half and went 11-11. 55 points from Harvey, Laing and Nutter for Seton Hall. 13 points from the rest of the team.

Over To East Rutherford

Filed under: Basketball,Big East,Conference,Injury — Dennis @ 11:16 am

Tonight the Panthers (23-4, 10-2 Big East) travel to play Seton Hall (12-13, 3-9) at 8 p.m. at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. Coming home with a win would mean keeping their record away from the Pete at a perfect percentage.

There is a belief in the Big East Conference that the team which wins all of its home games and splits its road games can claim the regular-season title.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon subscribes to that theory, even if his Panthers are going about it backward. They are 5-0 on the road and 5-2 at home in conference play.

After No. 1 Florida’s loss Saturday at Vanderbilt, No. 7 Pitt is the last major-college program in the country to be undefeated on the road in conference play.

It’s an interesting enough stat when seeing we’ve been able to win at places like Syracuse and Morgantown. Tonight doesn’t seem like the night to have that record put to the test either. Seton Hall has actually played us tough the last eight times we went up against them but the teams that beat us in 2003 and 2004 were much better than the Pirates of 2007.

The toughest part of tonight’s game could be the full court press that Seton Hall is likely to use on us, especially after watching what Louisville was able to do to us. Listening to a SHU reporter talking on local radio, he said the press will probably cause us some trouble but not for the entire game.

Then there’s the issue of the big guy. As you’ve probably heard/read by now, Aaron Gray sat out yesterday’s practice.

Sounds like we’ll be waiting for a game time decision on his status. If he’s out, the shooting will need to be better. We can’t continue to shoot threes like we have the last two game which have combined for a total of 7 for 36. As Chas mentioned in his last post, no one is worried about it.

“It’s not a concern,” Fields said. “We’re getting good shots. A couple of mine [on Saturday] were in and out. We’re not going to let that get to us. That’s not going to bother us.”

Small forward Mike Cook, who broke out of a scoring slump against Washington with 15 points, is not worried about the shooting woes, either.

“It’ll come together,” Cook said. “Those guys are great shooters. We’re not worried about it. I hope teams think they can let us shoot from out there because we’ll take advantage of that. Our guys will start making them again.”

That’s what we need to win, but for what SHU needs to pull off a huge upset, gives us these two keys.

• Stan Gaines will have to duplicate his effort put forth against West Virginia. That will be much more difficult given Pittsburgh’s style, but Gaines at least has to be a presence on the boards. This is also a game that John Garcia should see significant minutes in. He must put forth an effort similar to those against Providence and Villanova.

• Larry Davis and Jamar Nutter will both have to immediately snap out of their slumps. Davis and Nutter combined to shoot 12 of 25 against Villanova and 7 of 13 from behind the arc. Since then, the duo is a combined 7 of 33 from the field and 4 of 21 from the arc. Their production has been beyond dismal, especially in a week where you play 2 road games and are battling late in the second half. Fortunately, both shoot much better at home.

Much easier said than done.

Going to the Hall

Filed under: Basketball,Big East,Conference,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 10:53 am

Maybe it’s because Pitt has looked past them late in the season. Maybe dumb luck. Whatever, but Seton Hall has beaten Pitt 3 of the last 5 times.

On the surface, it looks like another “Groundhog Day,” but there are two variables this time: The Panthers’ dominant big man, senior center Aaron Gray, is questionable after spraining his ankle Saturday, and Seton Hall has played some of its best basketball against Pitt over the past three years, including a 65-61 win on the road last winter.

“Brian Laing and Jamar Nutter and the guys who played in that game know that even though Pitt is the best team in the league, they’re not invincible,” Pirates coach Bobby Gonzalez said Sunday.

Seton Hall has lost 7 straight in the conference (they beat Princeton in the span), but they have been in every game until late, when their lack of depth has just caught up with them.

Gray missed practice yesterday, and will likely be a gametime decision. Size-wise if Gray doesn’t play, Pitt doesn’t suffer tremendously in this instance. Seton Hall is not just short on depth, but lacking in size.

What they do, do is press and gamble on steals.

“I know (Seton Hall) watched the Louisville game, and they’re fired up,” Pitt G Levance Fields said. “We didn’t attack the press against Louisville. We were a little nonchalant.”

Of course, if Gray doesn’t play, it means the rest of the team has to play a lot better, especially the shooting by the guards.

“Obviously, we have to shoot better,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We’re one of the top field-goal shooting teams in the country and we haven’t shot it well in the last two. We have to do a better job in that regard.”

A big part of the problem is the 3-point shooting. Outside shooting had been a positive for most of the season, but the guards have gone cold lately.

In the past four games, the Panthers are shooting 26 percent (15 for 57) from 3-point range. In those games, Antonio Graves is 3 for 13 from behind the 3-point arc, Ronald Ramon 4 for 13 and Levance Fields 4 for 14.

The players, of course, don’t express concern. They profess confidence that all will be well. As you would expect.

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