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February 27, 2007

WVU-Pitt: Open Thread

Filed under: Basketball,Big East,Conference,liveblog — Chas @ 7:02 pm

Let’s get started.

7:04: Any question as to the importance of this game to Pitt. Dixon didn’t start Hudson on Senior night.

7:11: Gray now 0-4 on FTs.

7:18: 10:49 until the half, Pitt now behind 11-9. It’s not going to be a blowout. Both teams playing tight.

7:20: Fields may have to play the whole game. Pitt handles WVU on both ends much more efficiently with him in there. I’m not kidding. When he went out, Pitt fell behind. As soon as he got back in there, Pitt got the lead right back. The whole team looks to flow much smoother.

7:34: Good grief. Fields is out, and sure enough Pitt fall behind again. Graves may have hit a 3 or a 2, 2:51 left to the half, Pitt down 27-26 or 25.

7:47: Pitt trails 32-29 at the half. All things considered, not horrible. Both teams are 13-24. The difference is quite literally 2 free throws and 1 more 3 made (though the same shooting % — 4-12 vs. 3-9).

The bad news is that WVU is shooting over 50%. While the 7 TOs by Pitt isn’t great, against WVU it isn’t horrible.

Good news, only 4 fouls by Pitt — no one has more than 1 foul. WVU actually has fouled more — a rarity. Smalligan and Ruoff each have 2. Pitt has the edge on rebounding 17-9 (6-2 on offensive boards). Gray and Kendall are doing some damage inside and from short-range (14 points combined, 3 assists and 12 rebounds). Ramon has his stroke so far; and after starting shaky and not looking confident, Graves seems a little more settled. 12 assists on 13 scores — Cook and Fields each have 3.

Obviously I’d prefer a lead, but I like most of what I’m seeing from Pitt. Just keep Fields out there a lot more. Pitt does need to be better on the passing, and they have to go to the ball, not wait for it to get to them. WVU can reach.

8:07: Pitt up 38-32, 16:19 remaining. If Gray could hit free throws… Ah, well that’s kind of an old complaint. Pitt has been in their faces on defense, and driving the basket. Getting the Mountaineers in early foul issues. 4 fouls on WVU in under 4 minutes. For WVU, that is a big deal. They just don’t foul.

8:10: Oh, Gray wants this game. He hit the floor to save the ball and tossed it off a Mountaineer’s shin to keep it at Pitt’s end. He already has a double-double.

8:28: Pitt up 54-51, just under 8 minutes left. Nothing to really say. This game will go down to the end. Just hope Smalligan fouls out soon.

8:40: Pitt up 66-53, 3:38 left, though the Hoopies heading to the FT line. Levon Kendall in the first half, Biggs was great on offense in his spell (if he could just match it on the defensive side) and then Mike Cook with 12 second half points.

8:51: under a minute. Chants of “We want Doyle!”

8:55: Pitt wins 80-66.

9:00: Now that’s the way to rebound from a tough loss on the road. That’s the way you want to close out the season at the Pete for the Seniors.

Jamie Dixon: We played a lot better in the second half. Guard and penetration wasn’t very good in the first half.

Dixon just mentioned RPI and that he checked. Heh. Tell me coaches don’t pay attention to all that stuff.

Dixon said that Young was little banged up and couldn’t go in the second half.

Fields needs to know he’s the guy that is the catalyst and has to know that he makes the team go.

9:03: Safe to say, that Pitt came out angry and ready to play in this game. The defense really picked up in the second half.

The unofficial stats show that Pitt had an astounding 24 assists on 29 baskets. Graves with 6 and Fields and Cook each with 5.
I would have liked to have seen Kendall get one more rebound to get a double-double.

If Gray could have hit the FTs everyone would feel even better about this game. The good news, besides him going 5-7 with 12 points and 13 rebounds was that he only played 26 minutes. As much rest as he can give that ankle is always a plus.

Seems there was a little act of vandalism by Pitt fans on the Georgetown campus.

Vandals spray-painted vulgar phrases on the blue and gray “Hoya Saxa” sign near the Canal Road entrance to campus on Saturday on the same day the men’s basketball team defeated the University of Pittsburgh in a game that received national attention.

Students returning from the basketball game Saturday afternoon said that they saw several curse words spray-painted over the Georgetown catchphrase. The sign has since been repainted.

Emily Dorff (COL ’10) said she saw that the sign had been vandalized on her way home to campus.

“It had ‘Go Pitt’ and ‘Fuck Georgetown’ spray-painted on it in blue,” she said.

There’s a picture with the article. It’s not the biggest picture, but it would appear that there was only one of the 7 dirty words used once. So I’m not sure about multiple vulgarities.

Students who saw the vandalism said that they suspect that the phrases were painted by Pitt supporters some time before the end of Saturday’s game.

You mean Hoya fans didn’t do it themselves? There are times when I love student papers.

Though students said the graffiti could not totally ruin the positive atmosphere surrounding Georgetown’s win Saturday, it was a source of anger and frustration for many.

Michael Driscoll (MSB ’08), who heard from a friend about the sign’s alteration, said he was infuriated by the offensive vandalism.

“You just don’t do something like that,” he said. “It’s tasteless.”

Some students, however, said that the vandalism did not upset them much.

“I wouldn’t say I was upset. Perhaps annoyed, with a tinge of amusement,” Dorff said.

The sign has already been repainted and no evidence remains beyond the photographs and memories.

I’m not condoning it, because I don’t think “Fuck” was necessary. Simply painting Pitt over a sign that could and was easily repainted seems harmless enough.

Well, the WWLS decided it’s properties take precedence over live games. The WVU-Pitt game was supposed to be on ESPN2. It’s been bumped to ESPNU. Why? So that ESPN2 can air an hour-long  Arena Football preview. Nice. Since the Mouse Monopoly has an ownership interest and airs the games now, time to pump it up after ignoring the thing all the years prior.

So, if you don’t have a dish, get yourself to a sports bar that does.
So, will Pitt be “demoralized” or “angry” when they come out tonight against the Mountaineers — or judging from so many of the comments will that just be the fans?

It’s Senior Night. Time to say good-bye to seeing Aaron Gray, Antonio Graves, Levon Kendall and even Doyle Hudson at the Pete as anything other than as a spectator.

“It sneaks up on you,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “Obviously, what they’ve done has been tremendous. What they’ve done over the four years is unbelievable.”

The seniors have a combined record of 100-27, ranking seventh in overall victories among Pitt players — 108 is the record. They are the only senior class in the Big East with 20 overall wins and 10 conference wins in each of their four seasons.

The Hoopies will be coming to Pitt with a week off and plenty of time to stew over their loss last week. A 3-point loss at Providence where they shot an amazingly bad 9-41 — on 3-point shots. When Pitt beat WVU in Morgantown a few weeks ago, Pitt had come off of a week-long lay-off. Of course, Pitt had a win before the break so there was no stewing.

So WVU will be looking to payback Pitt. They also will be desperate for a win. They are a bubble team that  has not a single good road win and a weak non-con. The team knows that it really needs this game.

“Last week we had what I call a mini-camp Thursday and Friday, where we got a lot of work in on basics. Sunday we practiced a couple hours and it was a lot about us and Pitt.”

Frank Young, who leads the Big East in three-point goals, said upsetting Pitt would be a big boost to WVU’s hopes for postseason consideration.

“I think it would put us in the driver’s seat as far as (impressing) the NCAA committee,” the 6-foot-5 senior reasoned. We may have to win a game or two in the conference tournament if we lose this game.”

Young, who’s averaging 14.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, believes the long layoff between games will be beneficial.

Besides getting some rest, the team had time to correct some mistakes and make adjustments for this rematch. “It gave us a chance to get our legs back,” Young said.

“It’s a rivalry game with a lot of emotions. That’s also a tough place to win. But we’ve just got to go in there and play hard.”

Pitt has it’s own issues. Specifically, the fact that the team has been shooting poorly. It’s been a lot of things, it seems. You have the poor 3-point shooting from the guards, the forwards haven’t exactly been hitting jump shots or much else consistently. Even Gray, before he got hurt, seemed to be struggling to finish.

It’s got everyone a bit frustrated. On the guards, it seems a mix of a slump — given the number of missed open looks — along with defenses playing a lot tighter on them because there is little fear of them penetrating or driving. The forwards — all of them (Kendall, Young, Cook and Biggs) –  haven’t showed consistency all season with a jumpshot and now that the guards aren’t getting free as much, that is getting exposed and not providing any spacing for the guards or for Gray to not face a swarming double-team.

For those of you looking for Coach Dixon to be anything but positive sounding, forget it.

“We were leading the conference in 3-point shooting,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We had a high bar set there. If you don’t hit them it sticks out. It’s been obvious that we haven’t shot the ball well. The numbers don’t lie. But I think we’ve taken good shots. There have been some rare instances where shot selection has been a concern. But if you lead the conference in 3-point shooting you have to continue to take them. That’s important.

“You’ll find a [tough] stretch with any team. Even the best shooting teams in history, you’ll find four games where they didn’t shoot it as well. That’s easy to do. You just have to continue to take good shots. We’ve been doing that.”

If you find it frustrating that he never says anything really negative  about the team or the players, well that’s unlikely to change. That is the way Coach Dixon is with the media and his team. He won’t rip them publicly. He will be positive to the point where people will believe he is delusional. That’s just the way he does it. Other coaches that do it that way include Gary Williams of Maryland and Lorenzo Romar at Washington.

I admit it bothered me after the 2nd year of the Dixon reign, especially after the Pacific loss. The thing that I’ve learned is that it is simply his way of doing things. I doubt he believes it, everytime but Dixon is the type of coach that believes that stuff stays in the locker room. He won’t call out individual players. He will always be relentlessly optimistic publicly. I think it works against him at time and creates more anger to him, as people will say he’s in denial or is oblivious to the problems.

It’s quite weird. Pitt football and basketball has two coaches that are relentlessly positive about their team and players no matter what, that I think it creates almost a backlash of frustration. Where you feel like screaming at the TV or computer, “Liar!” when you see or read their comments. Unfortunately, not everyone can be as caustic and great copy like Jim Calhoun.

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