February 24, 2007

24-Hour Rule Reminder

Filed under: Basketball,Fans — Chas @ 7:11 pm

Probably necessary after this loss. As fans, we are entitled to roughly 24-hours of stewing, self-pity, misery and “woe-unto-us” stuff afterwards.

Thankfully not really necessary at this point, the reminder that you can be upset at the way a particular player performed, but no unfounded, unsubstantiated attacks on the player personally.

Pitt-Georgetown: Open Thread

Filed under: Basketball,liveblog — Chas @ 1:44 pm

Barring OT in the OK St-Texas Tech game, it looks like the Pitt-G-town game will start on time and without any delay of TV coverage. Of course, with the Cowboys, there is no guarantee of that.

2:07: Tip-off and Kendall was the center. They are saying Gray might still play.

2:14: 6-5 Pitt. Problem is I think Graves just picked up his 2nd foul.
Pitt has gotten Georgetown being a bit sloppy. Forcing turnovers and getting Hibbert playing further from the basket.
Cook has 4 points.

Hibbert has 1 foul.

2:22: Gray in the game. A little slower (hard to imagine), but able to run and play. Pitt leads 11-7, 11:50.

2:33: Pitt struggling horribly to get a basket at this point. Hell, just struggling to score. Now down 16-11. It’s been at least 6 minutes since their last FG. Some missed looks, blocks, and good defense has frustrated the offense. It’s not G-town has looked that good. They are just able to convert a few more now, and not turning the ball over as frequently.

2:43: 3:56 to the half, Pitt trails 20-19. Ewing, Jr. is a pest in the best possible way — if he’s on your team.

Gray looks decent. The size of Georgetown is more of a problem for Pitt as they try to get guys driving to the hoop. The only good thing, they are drawing fouls against the Hoyas.

3:06: Sorry, my network crashed for a bit. Interesting to look at who’s missing in the box score.

Young 2-6, 5 points, 2 rebounds

Fields 0-2, 4 assists, 1 TO

Graves 0-2, 1 assist and 1 TO

Kendall 0-1, 1 rebound

Gray 3-5, 7 points, 4 rebounds

Cook 2-5, 4 points, 1 assist, 1 steal and 3 TOs

3:18: Just the way they drew that up with Fields airballing a 3 that Cook read grabbed and put back. 33-33

3:30: Pitt leads 44-36. 11:49 remaining. An 18-3 run. Wow.

Seeing something from everyone right now.

3:51: I hate typing it, as it sounds like whining, but these refs suck.

It’s 49 all with under 5 minutes left. Both Pitt and Georgetown have played great on defense.

4:20: Pitt lost this game. I’m disappointed, but not upset. 61-53.
Gray looks like he’ll be playing the rest of the season. Even before the Gray injury, this was going to be a tough game for Pitt to win.

Both teams played great defense, Yes the Hoyas shot close to 50%, but they only had 36 attempts. Pitt’s defense severely limited their possessions. That was huge when you are talking about the most efficient offense in the country. You don’t expect to hold them to under 40% as much as limit their opportunities.

Do I think Pitt could have shot better than they did? Hell yes. Once again, the Pitt guards struggled with their shooting — all of them. Ramon was the most “accurate” at 3-9. Benjamin missed all 3 of his shots. Graves was 1-5. Fields, 2-8. Some shots were just bad luck — halfway down before coming out. Others were some missed open looks. But the majority of them came in the teeth of some great defense.

I think at times it is easy to forget how much it matters how the other team plays. Simply, Georgetown did play great defense against Pitt. Staying out on the guards to keep them on the perimeter and really battling inside.

Pitt worked hard in this game. They out rebounded the Hoyas and got more chances to shoot.

I’m still bothered by the refereeing. Not for the foul disparity. 29-16 in difference of attempts is not nearly so bad since Pitt missed several front ends of 1-and-1s to skew it a little higher. And, when you’re on the road, you should never expect the foul calls to go your way. What bothered me was the sheer randomness of the calls.

That said, Pitt was 8-16 on FTs (Gray and Young 3-10) while the Hoyas shot 22-29, to really win it at the line.

And in the meantime, I’m nervously watching Syr-Prov; Cinci-DePaul; Miami-VPI; OKSt-TTU. On top of that I’m trying to post. Wheee!!!

I do feel a sense of equilibrium returning. Bob Smizik is complaining that Pitt is in trouble.

Neither game, despite large doses of praise for all his players by coach Jamie Dixon, was what might be expected from a top-10 team. The team has to play better if it has any hope of advancing beyond the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Playing better certainly is in the realm of possibility despite the level of upcoming competition. Much has been made about the unselfish nature of the Pitt players. Praised is heaped upon them for their pass-first mentality.

Maybe that’s a problem. Maybe Pitt is too unselfish.

That’s right, essentially his complaint is that the frontcourt of Gray, Kendall and Cook are not being aggressive enough shooting. Forget that Cook was in a bit of a slump shooting — killing his point totals. Kendall hasn’t shot well most of the season. They need to take more shots.

I feel better.

Gray’s status is still up in the air, but some good news.

Gray apparently does not have a high ankle sprain, which is a serious injury to the ligaments between the two major bones – the tibia and fibula – of the lower leg. The Pitt official said he believed that the sprain was lower, a common injury for basketball players.

The semi-official word is that it remains unlikely that Gray will play. He hasn’t practiced with the team this week. Instead working on drills — and yes, free throws — and mobility stuff.

Regardless of whether Gray plays or not, Levon Kendall is still expected to pick up some more of the scoring and rebounding slack.

Against Seton Hall, Dixon called on Kendall for chances that would normally go to Gray. The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Kendall converted, shooting 6 of 8 from the floor and playing a team-high 33 minutes.

“We needed that,” Dixon said. “That was a learning experience for me.”

It was an offensive breakout for Kendall. Prior to Seton Hall, he had scored in double-figures once in the previous 20 games. In 96 career games at Pitt, Kendall has never scored more than 15 points in a game.

Kendall, who averages 5.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a game, rarely shoots. He is attempting fewer than five field goals per game.

“I think Coach Dixon has some confidence in me that I can get some touches and make some plays,” Kendall said. “I knew that opportunity was going to come. It’s nice to be able to do that in a game and show that we can run plays for me at (center) and still be successful.”

Of course, this isn’t exactly Seton Hall and a small front court he’s shooting against.

If you care about individual accolades, this game could be a statement for Georgetown Forward Jeff Green as Big East Player of the Year.

Both Pitt and Georgetown have their reputations this season on the front courts. The backcourts for both were question marks going into the season.

But a New York City rivalry is brewing in the backcourt.

Panthers guards Ronald Ramon and Vance Fields hail from the Bronx and Brooklyn, respectively, while Hoyas sophomore Jessie Sapp is a Harlem native.

“We’ve been friends for a long time and played together in AAU,” said Sapp. “So I know what they do, and they know what I do.”

Sapp also knows guard play was supposed to be the Hoyas’ weak link this season.

“We heard it, but we really didn’t pay any mind to it,” said Sapp, who combines with backcourt mate Jonathan Wallace to average more than 20 points per game. “We came in with the state of mind that we had to work as a team.”

Wallace (11.2 ppg) has been unflappable, shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range. He’s also a recognized team leader. Sapp (9.3 ppg) doesn’t carry the same stature, but has started 25 of 26 games and is a tireless worker who unafraid of big shots. He matched his career-high with 16 points against Villanova last Saturday, tied for a team-high 15 at Pittsburgh last month, and he’s averaged 15 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the last two games.

Neither team expects a repeat of the last meeting when the teams were so good on offense.

“Both teams shot 60 percent from the field. That was unbelievable, especially for two very good defensive teams,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.

“Offensively, both teams had to be happy with the way they played. I would think both coaches would look at their defense and think they could do a better job.”

That first game was an aberration. Georgetown has the No. 1 scoring defense in the Big East at 56.5 points per game. Only one team scored more points against Georgetown this season than Pitt — Old Dominion had 75 against the Hoyas in the third game of the season.

Less than an hour or so.

The theme for Pitt basketball this season has been “a different players will step up each game if Aaron Gray doesn’t perform well.” Obviously, starting at 2 p.m. today, someone is going to need to step it up big time. We’re not talking about big time, we’re talking about big time. Hell, facing off against both Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green, we’ll probably need two players to play the game of their lives to win.

There’s really no great stat to show how important Gray is except Ken Pomeroy’s plus/minus stat. Not only would Gray score but he would prevent Hibbert from scoring; obviously Hibbert would not be totally shut down by Gray but I’ll take Gray at 70% (or maybe lower) than Kendall or someone else against Hibbert.

We struggled against Seton Hall. You want me to say it again? We struggled against Seton Hall. Now we’re going down to a sold out Verizon Center against the team that is vying for the top Big East spot and it seems with the news of Gray’s injury, our chances have been totally washed away.

Don’t write us off too fast though. I mean hey, look, we’re ranked #8 in the nation and although we’re not playing the best that we can at this point and our big man is out, we’re still a top 25 team.

Levance could shoot the lights out like he did for a seven game stretch a few weeks back. Mike Cook could go for 18 like he did when we played the Hoyas earlier this season. Maybe Levon Kendall could stop playing like Levon Kendall and play like a real athlete and basketball player. And yet all of this is on the offensive side of the ball which leaves the whole other end of the court open for Hibbert and Green to have a field day. Because of that, I’ll set my prediction at G’town 78 Pitt 68.

Prove me wrong boys…

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