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March 18, 2007

Let’s go national for a minute. There isn’t a lot since the storyline desired by many didn’t happen. Luke Winn at SI.com has some on the game, and likes what he saw from the team this time as opposed to last year.

Whereas last year’s Panthers, who lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Bradley, might have bowed out in the face of adversity, this veteran team rallied around it. The first situation arose for Pitt late Thursday night, when the 7-foot Gray, their primary size advantage over the Rams, came down with an illness and couldn’t practice on Friday. “Last night, I felt terrible,” Gray said after Saturday’s game. “I don’t know if it was food poisoning or a stomach virus, but I got maybe an hour and half of sleep.”

As Pitt’s Big Queasy recounted the more unpleasant details of his symptoms in the locker room, he was so exhausted that the only way he could stand was with his hands on his knees. He had been limited to 26 minutes and looked delirious at times, but still managed to score 14 points (his season average) and dish out a team-high five assists. Gray was less impressed with his perseverance, though, than he was how many of his teammates had stepped up while he was nauseous. Cook had scored seven early points to help build a first-half lead, Sam Young poured in a team-high 15, and seven different Panthers finished with at least eight points.

Winn actually writes like he believes Pitt has a chance against UCLA. Something that I suspect will be the minority position.

The Sporting News‘ Mike DeCourcy compliments an excellent comeback.

No, we’re not talking about Virginia Commonwealth’s recovery from a 19-point deficit to tie Pittsburgh and force overtime. We’re talking about Panthers guard Levance Fields, who missed two free throws that could have sealed his team’s victory with 2 seconds left in regulation but returned to play a flawless overtime period, which included a 3-pointer that gave Pitt a four-point lead.

Fields’ OT redemption was a popular storyline.

There have been doubts in the season about Mike Cook and how much he is about himself or the team.  I hope after he was limping in the second half but still argued to get in there, the issue is over.

Dixon inserted Cook into the game in overtime, and Cook made two free throws with 19 seconds left to give Pitt a three-point lead.

“I was happy with it,” Cook said. “I trust my teammates. Obviously, I was limping. As a player you want to stay out there. But it was up to coach. At the end of the game he put me out there to make fouls shots. He had trust in me, so I wanted to come through.”

I can’t believe how many media outlets are focused on the idea of the trap and press of VCU getting Pitt. They keep missing the underlying issue. VCU shot 31% in the first half, and until they started hitting shots, they couldn’t set up their press. This is nothing to take away from the Rams, but their vaunted press doesn’t work unless they make their shots and have a chance to set it up. They had very little of it for the first 28 minutes when the shots weren’t going and Pitt could move up-court off of rebounds.
Now as for the VCU position. Their view is that they would have won — or at least kept playing — if they had more time.

“I’m not one for close calls or moral victories,” coach Anthony Grant said. “You win or lose, and we weren’t able to win today. Like I told the guys, to me, the clock ran out. But the heart, the courage and the character these guys showed, like all year long – like all year long – I’m proud to be their coach.”

And last I checked the clock was part of the game. Good to know that they, uh, know they — what? Lost or just ran out of time? The Rams didn’t show total class at the end with their comments.

“I think it was just us,” Walker said of the big deficit. “In the first half, we weren’t taking very good shots and that led to them getting some easy baskets. You play a team as good as Pittsburgh, you can’t give them easy baskets because they’ll make you pay.”

Apparently Pitt’s defense wasn’t the issue.

Don’t worry VCU, you’ll always have Duke.

So, let me get this straight. A columnist in New Jersey — with Rutgers and Seton Hall — wants to talk about the angst of Pitt basketball fans?





CBS just announced that 9:30ish is the time for the game on Thursday.

Comment by Aaron 03.18.07 @ 7:38 pm

Yahoo is showing it as 3 pm.

Comment by fred 03.18.07 @ 8:00 pm

“Fields of dream” story

link to sports.espn.go.com

Comment by TMGPanther 03.18.07 @ 8:02 pm

9:30ish is consistent with the Pitt web site and since CBS is televising the game, I would think they are the best source.

Comment by TMGPanther 03.18.07 @ 8:03 pm

Besides giving Pitt a tough time, it was hard to like VCU. Their players were punks. Their coach seems to be too. We did America a favor.

Comment by panther84 03.19.07 @ 12:01 pm

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