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March 9, 2007

Well, another close game before hand. I wouldn’t object to another OT.

I’m curious to see how Pitt will adjust to Louisville this second time around.

9:45: Well, whatever the original plan was, it just got altered with Gray out early with 2 fouls.

10:20: Gray on the bench for all but 3 minutes. No 3s hit. And Pitt is right in this game.

10:26: Bad gamble by Dixon to put Gray in for the final minute. Pitt couldn’t do anything on offense to make it worthwhile and then Gray had to essentially stand far from the basket on defense to avoid any more fouls.

Totally disrupted Pitt’s spacing on defense. It ended up costing 6 more points. Up to that point, Pitt wasn’t in bad shape considering the situation.
Now Pitt down 37-26 at the half.

I’m not saying Pitt should be relying on the 3, but they have to knock some down. 0-6 is not promising.

10:44: To: Antonio Graves

Re: hitting some 3s.

Thank you for those first two.
37-32 Louisville in less than a minute into the second half.

10:53: Seems Antonio Graves found his stroke. Thankfully.

Can’t believe they called Gray for that foul.

11:04: More consistency from the refs, as Padgett keeps getting away with wrapping and yanking players. When did Cook get his nose bloodied?

11:22: Well, this has just gotten ugly. Has anyone scored in the last couple minutes? Gray has missed 3 straigh FTs. Still 52-51 Pitt, 3:29 left.

11:37: 65-59 PITT WINS!!!

WHOOO-Hoo!!!!!!!!!

11:39: Here’s the added bonus. What are the odds of seeing Burr and Higgins again tomorrow?

12:06: Some postgame thoughts. Gray had 8 points and 0 rebounds in 14 mintues, and Pitt won. Yeah, I saw that coming.

Graves found his stroke and his confidence in the second half. 23 points, 2 blocks, 4 assists and a steal.

Mike Cook had 13 points and 8 rebounds along with 2 steals.

Pitt only had 6 turnovers in the game. A second straight low turnover game against teams that got Pitt to fumble the ball away.

17 assists on 20 baskets.

20-31 on FTs. It could be better, but it has been worse.

It wasn’t that Pitt wasn’t getting whistles. It was the sheer unpredictability of what  would be called that gets on the nerves.
Big thanks to Louisville for panicking early in the second half, launching shots without any real plan. Forcing your coach to burn all but one of your timeouts in the first 5 minutes.

Really, I don’t know what happened to Louisville in the second half. They seemed to panic the minute Pitt sank a 3. May not have been Pitino’s best halftime speech.

We Play In 3 Hours

Filed under: Basketball,Big East,Conference,Opponent(s) — Dennis @ 6:25 pm

Conference tournaments mess up my schedule. I’m thinking about what to say about last night’s game and I realize we’ll be back out on the MSG court in 3 hours.

Quick thoughts from last night went like this:

We saw that Ronald Ramon will never get off a good shot if he has to create his own space. Somehow the local papers have yet to pick up on this.

This is the first game in a long time where I just sat there watching the game thinking to myself, “Yes, Aaron, yes. Nice work.” So many good things to say about him. He wasn’t the only one that looked good though. Kendall played very solidly as did Cook and Sam Young (while battling his knee issues). The best 40 minutes of the year?

If you missed it when the ESPN guys were chatting with about a minute to go the mentioned the half court shooting contest after every morning shoot around. Players, mangers, coaches, and probably even the janitor sometimes get in on the action. I’d pay to see that in person just once — sounds like a load of fun.

I’m not sure what to think about tonight’s game since I’m still recovering from last night.

It took Louisville two overtimes to put away WVU but should it have even gone to OT in the first place?

Count the steps, make your call.

First, NY Warrior at Cracked Sidewalks has a solid recap from the Marquette perspective. Definitely worth the read.

Go figure, a lot of the deserved attention in the coverage was on the game Aaron Gray had.

Gray put up game highs of 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead third-seeded Pittsburgh (26-6), which will face the second-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the second semifinal tonight.

“He’s been great every night we’ve played him,” MU coach Tom Crean said of Gray. “He’s so strong, if he gets any position inside it’s so hard to guard him. He was catching the ball so deep that we couldn’t get down and get the ball out of his hands or put some pressure on him.”

Sam Young added 17 points and Mike Cook 16 for the Panthers, who made more free throws (27) than the Golden Eagles attempted (21).

Pitt actually making free throws made Gene Collier happy. He also notes that this was Mike Cook’s first BET game and Cook admits some jitters.

“I’m not going to say it was the defense,” he said after slashing for 16 points. “It was just, you know, a big environment for me on a big stage and I came out kind of nervous a little bit. Coach kept me in the game, let me get myself into the game and let me get into the flow. It really helped me out a lot that I was able to get a transition bucket. The second half I just wanted to come out and get rebounds, get some steals and, if the shot was there, just take it.”

Cook had 14 of his 16 after intermission, when Pitt’s shooting started to look unstoppable. The Panthers made six of their 11 3-point attempts, a serious reversal of a condition that, over their previous six games, three of them losses, they were shooting only 29 percent from behind the arc.

Cooks definitely seemed more settled in the second half. In general, though, since his little shooting slump late in the season, he has been more willing to let the game come to him more and less forcing things.

As I said last night/early morning, my sense that it would be a win for Pitt solidified when Barro missed the breakaway lay-in, the media horde, however, seems to have focused on Fields’ bankshot 3-pointer.

Pittsburgh guard Levance Fields looked over to the bench, shook his head and smiled.

His desperation toss with seconds left on the shot clock banked off the backboard and splashed through the net — one of those shots Fields knew he should have called before launching it midway through the second half.

The significance of the banker? Proof that it was Pittsburgh’s night.

Especially because in the postgame, Marquette Coach Tom Crean said (PDF) that was when he thought it wouldn’t be their night.

When Fields made a 27-footer off the backboard, it started to feel like it just wasn’t our night, even though, to me, even though we continued to play very hard.

Of course if it had been James or Kinsella or Fitzgerald, then it would have been no surprise because they do that in practice all the time.

Aw, heck, a little more from the postgame presser.

Q. They made more free throws than your whole team attempted; do you feel the game was won or lost at the free throw line?

TOM CREAN: Most games usually are. At halftime the foul shots were 16-3, and in a physical aggressive game, that’s a tough pill to swallow. That’s the way it was and that’s the way the game was called and just deal with it. There’s no way we got a little shorthanded, and when you take a player like Jerel McNeal out of our lineup that can get to the rim and create so much for himself and for others, that hurts your belly a little bit to get to the line. But that’s why we want to go home, regroup, hope to have him back next week, and let’s see what happens.

But they stepped up. We missed two free throws the entire night; that’s what it was?

Q. 17 for 19.

TOM CREAN: And they shot 41. It’s a tough number, it’s a tough number this time of year. But they earned them and that’s the way it is.

It could read like he was on the verge of complaining about the officiating and then pulled back. The complexion of their offense was so different without McNeal to be a 3d possible slasher from the outside. Fitzgerald just doesn’t bring that. He may be shooting well, but it’s jump shots and not a lot that draws contact.

Then there was this from Aaron Gray.

Q. Did you feel that you fed off the energy of the crowd? It seemed almost like a home game.

AARON GRAY: Definitely. They were announcing the starting lineups and Marquette had a little cheer and our cheer was definitely louder. We were over on the bench saying, all right, Pittsburgh just won round one. It was definitely huge, we got a lot of fan support. We traveled real well. I know I had a ton of people coming up from home to see my last BIG EAST tournament. It’s huge for me, all of the support that I’m getting and all of the support the University of Pittsburgh is getting.

Seems Pitt is now one of the top-3 ticket sellers for the BET since the 2001 BET.

Joe Starkey tries to downplay it as Pitt just doing what it should do. Um, okay. It’s a tournament. Things happen in general. There’s a reason why this is the first time in 10 years the BET had all 4 top seeds in the semis. And of course the fact that Pitt had lost 3 straight to Marquette. Good to know that Larry Fitzgerald and Tyler Palko were at the game, though.

Since everyone has probably read them anyways, just links to the Trib and P-G articles.

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