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February 3, 2008

You know, I think I would have preferred to have played UConn in about 2 weeks. After they’ve been playing with a 7-8 man team for a while. They actually have their starters playing more minutes than Pitt in the last 3 games. There are 200 minutes available in any game, UConn has played their starters for 169, 169 and 173 minutes since the suspension of Dyson. Wiggins won’t be that big of an impact on the minutes of the starters. Calhoun is either going to have to give other guys more minutes, or this team will be burned out by the Big East Tournament.

I didn’t have a big problem with the officiating. Maybe 2 or 3 calls went UConn’s way more than Pitt had go theirs. Big deal. It’s a road game. That’s not atypical in my view for the home court to sway a couple extra. Did they piss me off when they happened? You bet. That wasn’t the reason for the loss, though. Have to give credit to UConn for beating Pitt. They played great defense.

This game convinced me, though, that Hasheem Thabeet is off to the NBA after this season. He nearly left last year when he didn’t know how to do much more than stand with his arms straight up. He’s got a ways to go, but he is far better than he was last year. He’s even learned to make free throws.

Thabeet became a complete intimidator to Young and Blair. They really were bothered and frustrated. Thabeet only had 5 blocks, but his presence altered so many others. There’s a reason that UConn is the #1 team in 2-pt FG defense. Like Louisville, Pitt had poor 3-point shooting and lost. Providence won, and they shot ridiculously high on 3-point shots. UConn may be one of the most susceptible teams to being bombed on a random night.

I’m trying to figure out if Keith Benjamin is really bothered by the stitches on his hand or if it is simply that he was hot for a while on his 3-point shooting and is now going back to equilibrium. 2-3, 3-6, 1-4 and 1-6. That is what he has shot from the perimeter in the each of the past 4 games. I’m leaning towards streaky, not injured hand.

Sadly, Sam Young’s 0-5 on 3s is also not particularly atypical lately. Since his 4-4 on 3s against Seton Hall, he’s shot 5-25 (with 3 coming versus St. John’s) in the next six games

I was shocked that UConn actually made a brief attempt early in the game to go to a 2-3 zone. Gilbert Brown dropped a short jumper right in the middle of it, and they never tried that again. The Huskies are less comfortable in the zone than Pitt.

Heck, this was a game that cried out for the lost art of the mid-range jumper to beat UConn. The Huskies played the perimeter and packed it inside. Young and Brown, noticeably, had success with the short and mid-range shots. Oddly, the only guy UConn seemed prepared to defend that way was Tyrell Biggs. Guess they watched a fair amount of tape in the game plan.

I have to say that Bradley Wanamaker played pretty well. I think he was under orders not to shoot, and that helped a bit. He really got after it on defense — and only whistled for one foul. Yes he had that painful turnover near the end of the half, but at least he shut down UConn before they could get a shot off the other way.

On Pitt’s first 8 baskets, there were 7 assists. Pitt had 3 more assists the rest of the game.

Defensively, Blair did more than hold his own inside against Thabeet, Adrien and Robinson. Blair had another double-double but with 9 offensive rebounds he really struggled. 5-14 shooting. It also means that he wasn’t getting that many touches in this game except from rebounds. That was a shame because while he was 1-6 in the first half, but did improve to 4-9 in the second half (when he had 6 offensive boards). He was figuring it out inside offensively, which is good for the future.

Hard to believe that when Stanley Robinson came into UConn last year, some thought he might only last a year. At this rate, he’s going to be there for the full four years. Just a completely inconsistent player.





Very good analysis, it seems that Young is pressing to demonstrate he has an all around game.
As you pointed out his 3 point scoring touch is sorely lacking.

I have not checked any stats but without Cook and Fields this team seems to have a hard time scoring. Hopefully Fields returns in 2 weeks and that changes, the loss of Fields really hurt this team. Fields is a true leader who can score and make sure the right guy gets the ball to score.

Dixon is doing a great job to hold this team together, the Big East is just too competitive a conference, you have to play your best every game or lose with a half ass effort.

Comment by Phil Hendrie 02.03.08 @ 8:38 am

Somebody in the last thread wrote that this team is not that gifted athletically. Honestly, that is the dumbest thing that has ever been written on this blog. This Pitt team is one of the most athletic in the entire conference. Gilbert Brown, Sam Young, Keith Benjamin, Dejuan Blair and Brad Wannamaker are some of the best athletes to ever play at Pitt. The only marginal athlete that gets minutes is Ramon. His pt will go down when Fields, who is a deceptively quick athlete, and we will have one of the most athletic lineups in the league.

Not once yesterday did Uconn do something athletically superior. They had more height with Adrien and Thabeet, but everyone has that problem with Uconn.

Pitt played well defensively yesterday, but just couldn’t get the perimeter shots to fall. If Fields is out there I have to believe he makes a few triples and at least limits AJ Price a little bit. Price was the difference. He kept them in the game in the first half and made a few big plays down the stretch. He is a good player.

Pitt will be fine. I think Uconn is the best team in the conference and they are on fire right now. Pitt was right there with them on the road and could have stolen that win. The defensive effort was very encouraging, as that was an area where we were struggling. The offense will get an immediate boost when Mr. Fields returns.

I think this Pitt team has what it takes to get past the sweet 16. It depends on the matchups, however I really like our chances. We need to finish the month strong and get on a role to secure a decent seed. This game should keep the team confident. They were right there and even had a chance to blow Uconn out.

Comment by Omar 02.03.08 @ 9:22 am

Also, regarding the poor 3 pt. shooting, I don’t think anyone mentioned the fact that it was our 4th game in 10 days. I think that may have something to do with the poor shooting. Jump shots are about your legs more than anything. Benjamin was playing big minutes for the first time, therefore I think it definitely had something to do with it. His shot has been too consistent this year for him to just go cold. Sam needs to pick his spots from three. He is money from the baseline, but he should pump fake and drive from anywhere else. 5 threes isn’t awful, but I think he should only take 2 or 3 a game to keep the defense honest. He is much more dangerous from 10-17 feet. I am shocked when he misses jumpers from that range.

Comment by Omar 02.03.08 @ 9:29 am

Great unemotional analysis…with all else said, Pitt’s single biggest problem in all big games over the last 6 years has been scoring enough
points. Until they fix that problem (see Georgetown)it will be a tough road, especially late in games with a short bench.

Great and much needed 5 days off until WVU, a must win.

Comment by Dan 72 02.03.08 @ 9:36 am

I look at all of the layups and shots within 5 feet that were missed as to the single reason they lost this one. I would love to get a count on how many of these close range shots were missed – some after 2 and 3 attempts.

Comment by Rex 02.03.08 @ 10:14 am

It’s been said before but again it’s painfully obvious that they miss Fields–and even Cook–most in these end of game situations. Four times now when we need a shot, either in the final seconds or in the last minute–like UConn–we can’t get anything decent. Nobody can create a shot outside of the regular offensive set.

Even saturday when Ramon seemed to have a good look early in the possession, he seemed hesitant, like he was surprised to get it.

All in all, though, I’ll take a game over .500 until Fields comes back–hopefully then we’ll pull out a few of these games when it really matters.

Comment by jason 02.03.08 @ 10:18 am

When will we know if Cook qualifies for a medical redshirt?

Comment by DJ 02.03.08 @ 12:11 pm

DJ – not until after the season at the earliest

Comment by Jamie H 02.03.08 @ 12:13 pm

I think Stanley Robinson’s “inconsistency” had a lot to do with him being completely locked down by Gilbert Brown.

Additionally, did anyone go crazy over the egregious no call on Robinson’s fast break that ended in a Thabeet dunk. That was the most blatant carry I have ever seen. I watched the replay 10 times and it is ridiculous. He had his hand completely under the ball, hesitated and then dribbled. That was the worst call of the game. It got the crowd back into it and gave Uconn some momentum.

Comment by Omar 02.03.08 @ 12:24 pm

Omar,

I’ve watched the Huskies 3 games prior to this. Brown played good D against him, but believe me when I say that Robinson is showing little predictability in what kind of game he has each time.

Comment by Chas 02.03.08 @ 12:54 pm

Robinson seems like the type of player that struggles against similar athletes. He can dominate lesser athletic talent, but unless the perimeter jumper is dropping he is lost against similar talent.

Comment by omar 02.03.08 @ 1:40 pm

I totally agree with many of the comments, but I do have a couple of questions about a few of the players. First of all, I know Wannamaker is a freshmen, but he seems to make too many poor choices on the floor. His defense isn’t bad and improvement is evident, but his offensive skills are poor at best. Is he simply a nervous freshmen or is his offense really this bad? Secondly, although I believe Blair is an awesome freshmen, I believe he has a lot of work to do to develop post moves to take him to the next level. Too often he simply tips balls to the hoop instead of gathering himself and going up strong. He misses way too many tips because he doesn’t seem comfortable with his footwork and ball fakes down low in the post. Does anyone else see this or am I simply too critical of the talented young man?

Comment by LTL 02.03.08 @ 1:41 pm

LTL, I agree with you on Blair. He is a great talent. He positions himself well, rebounds with authority, but is very timid on his put-backs. I’ve seen him just basically throw the ball at the basket several times this year. When he attacks the basket with the same authority that he rebounds with, his inside game will be awesome.

Comment by HbgFrank 02.03.08 @ 2:50 pm

What really hurts Pitt is that Dixon failed miserably to recruit big guys for the last few years until Blair fell into his lap. We all know how limited Biggs is (plus he’s about 6’5″) and there haven’t been any other front-line recruits since Gray/Kendall until this year. (I’m actually happy with what I’ve seen of McGhee so far. He’s a big body who will throw his weight around and rebound.) But the fact remains, we depend on Blair to defend the paint inside and that’s a tough order for a frosh when you’re facing a team with a Thabeet and an Adrien. If Dixon had brought in one other big man 2-3 yrs ago (instead of Doyle Hudson and Austin Wallace), this team would be able to bang right back at a squad like UConn instead of eventually knuckling under. Dixon is SO lucky that Blair is as good as he is, or this team would be in the BE basement…..

I do think that the difference was the intimidation inside and the plays Price made toward the end of both halves. I liked the fact that Brown was on Price for the big drive near the end (because he’s a tough on-ball defender)until he got beat so badly.

Comment by jaime peterson 02.03.08 @ 4:52 pm

Jamie very good observation, the talented big men that Pitt did target went elsewhere because Dixon and his staff couldn’t close the deal.

However, I think this will change, Dixon is a very down to earth coach who really cares about his players. Expect great things in the years to come, Pitt has a solid basketball program, it is too bad the injuries piled up this season because they were on a roll.

Comment by Phil Hendrie 02.03.08 @ 5:02 pm

Sam Young is pretty good and Dixon recruited him. It’s not easy to recruit big men and tell them they are going to sit for a year or two. Jamie why are you so freaking negative? How does Dixon not get credit for recruiting and landing Blair? How many big guys should Pitt have? Nobody would be saying a damn thing if we didn’t have two huge injuries this year because this team would probably be undefeated or maybe have 1 loss. This is a stupid observation. Dixon recruited what is a top-10 team when healthy. Criticize him if you want. It is mindless.

Comment by Omar 02.03.08 @ 5:20 pm

Oh, Omar….suck and swallow!!!

Comment by Fcuk Paterno 02.03.08 @ 5:35 pm

great insight as usual paterno.

Comment by Omar 02.03.08 @ 5:45 pm

“Honestly, that is the dumbest thing that has ever been written on this blog.”

“This is a stupid observation.”

Omar – It’s certainly okay to disagree and I think you bring a lot to the discussion, but I’m not sure these kinds of statements help your argument or endear you to any of this blog’s writers or readers. Let’s show others that Pitt fans are a classy, intelligent group of fans.

PS – Mr. Paterno – You’re not helping matters much.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 02.03.08 @ 5:49 pm

Sorry Dave. I don’t mean to discredit anyone’s opinion. However, statements such as these are so ridiculous that it makes me angry. I think the blog owner likes me just fine.

Comment by Omar 02.03.08 @ 6:22 pm

Yes you do mean to discredit other opinions…..luckily nobody pays much attention to anybody who’s only interested in their own opinion, especially on a site that’s supposed to be about sharing them. (Doubt anybody on this site pays much attention to Omar.)

Sam Young isn’t a big man, no matter what position he’s played for Pitt.

Give Dixon credit for landing a player who grew up a few hundred yds from the Pete, especially when Blair’s recruiting profile didn’t really explode until late in his HS career? By that time, Dixon had him locked up, and we are all incredibly fortunate for that.

Years of bringing in no power are dangerous to a program. You can get by one or two years, but much longer than that and you’re at risk. Making judgments about players like Hudson, Wallace and Biggs is exactly what Dixon is paid to do……..(by the way, I will admit that Biggs has contributed much more this year than I expected, but he’s still a disappointment.)

I’d still be all over Dixon for this power gap, no matter what they did this year. It made everything depend on Blair, which is a risky proposition.

Comment by jaime peterson 02.03.08 @ 6:44 pm

Omar, some people just can’t find it in themselves to be positive. Jamie is obviously a JD hater. Nothing we say Ignore him.will change that.

Comment by TigerPaul 02.03.08 @ 7:08 pm

For the record, Biggs is 6’8″, not 6’5″.

I agree that Blair needs to be developed more and doesn’t take the best shots all the time. But consider the following: 1. He looks better as a freshman than Gray did as a senior. 2. He has gone against guys like Hibbert, a likely lottery pick, and won the battle. 3. This is the biggest point to me, he looks at the basket first, and then passes if it isn’t open (or sometimes takes bad shots, but hey, he’s a freshman). The biggest weakness to the inside game in the past few years was that Gray looked to pass first. He never seemed to really want to shoot. I love that Blair looks to the hoop first, showing that he wants to be the scorer.

Dixon has done a good job with big men. Dixon was Howland’s primary recruiter, and I remember two guys, Troutman and Taft, who were studs. Taft was a monster, and would have been a big difference maker if he didn’t become a head case, believing that he was going to be the next great NBA big man or something.

Of all the things that have been an issue for Pitt, while under-performing big men was an issue maybe last year and the year before, the number one issue they haven’t addressed that has KILLED them is piss-poor free throw shooting. Fix that and they make it past the sweet 16 on a regular basis, and go more than 1-5 in Big East Championship games.

Comment by The Prowler 02.03.08 @ 9:54 pm

I just want to know if anyone now thinks i was wrong in my prediction for our record the rest of the way…We’re 6-5 since Fields went down, and thats with the easier half of our big east schedule out of the way…we *should* win both these next games, but more likely will split them. Hopefully Fields will come back after that and get back into it before the big east tourney so we can make a run…its funny when you think about it, we’ve had to replace all 5 starters from last year…we’re not doing too bad for who’s available. Just more bad luck – you should be used to that though, this is Pitt after all…

Comment by Stuart 02.04.08 @ 12:08 am

Then again, we could be like that shithole across the state and rush the court everytime we beat the #8 team (obviously overrated…) in the nation…

Well, maybe being unranked will put a fire under some asses…we have the talent – even our backups are better than a lot of the guys we used to win with. Its all about effort, finishing…and not getting fuct by the refs.

Comment by Stuart 02.04.08 @ 12:13 am

Omar great point that nobody seems to hit on.
4 games in 10 days and the minutes these guys are playing. Play a major role in our poor offensive out point. Esp. and I hate this term “fading down the strecth”. They are losing there legs which hurts there shooting. These guys are spent…..
Nobody on this team has logged this many minutes in there career. Playing in the Big East which is the most phys. conference in the NCAA has taken its toll. The effort has been there all year minus the RU game. Thes kids are playing hard. Also playing roles and minutes most weren’t expected to play. Give’um a freakin brake……..

Comment by kp 02.04.08 @ 12:46 am

I don’t think we are going to drop out of both polls. Losing at UCONN isn’t bad at all. They are a good team, I think the best in the conference, and are really hot right now. Pitt was right there with them and had a chance but didn’t take it. Happens all the time. We just need to beat the teams that we are better than starting with WVU on Thursday and Providence the Tuesday after. Both of the games are at home which make them must wins. That will take us to 7 wins with 7 games left. Many of those games will see Fields back in the line-up. We should get a win over Cinci. and Depaul both at home which takes us to 9 wins. Marquette, ND Syracuse, WVU and Louisville will be tough, but we should win 2 of those 5 which will give us 11 wins. +/- 1 for crazy things happening and we have a 10 win season. Not bad being down 2 starters for most of the schedule.

Comment by Omar 02.04.08 @ 9:24 am

Look at the facts – this team has lost 5 out of 6 weekend games going back to the Dayton game (discounting Seton Hall). They have no losses on weeknights. What are they doing on Friday that’s leaving them so spent?

Comment by Kevin 02.04.08 @ 11:49 am

I don’t know if that is a legitimate argument because the team is under curfew on a Friday night before the game. It could just be bad matchups.

Comment by JoeyD 02.04.08 @ 12:24 pm

Pitt has a 3pm press conferecne to name Phil Bennett as DC…he was the head coach at SMU and was fired this year after going 1-11.

Comment by Fcuk Paterno 02.04.08 @ 12:29 pm

That scared the crap out of me, but this sounds at least fairly encouraging (from the Trib):

“Prior to going to SMU in 2001, Bennett was a highly regarded defensive coordinator with experience coaching defensive backs and linebackers and a reputation as a strong recruiter. He spent three seasons at Kansas State, where his defenses ranked in the top five nationally each year, coached the secondary at Oklahoma and was defensive coordinator at TCU, Louisiana State, Purdue and Iowa State”

Comment by Dan35 02.04.08 @ 1:24 pm

(I was just being sarcastic)

Comment by Kevin 02.04.08 @ 1:24 pm

If only we could’ve had that game we had against UConn back in 2004-2005 season… I saw glimpses of Blair reminding me, but alas…

At least one of my teams won this weekend!!!
GO GIANTS :)

Comment by Caroline 02.04.08 @ 2:52 pm

reports of of wvu are tha shane hale was on campus over the weekend, not sure of his commitment….. (from the scout website)

Comment by WHAT_THE_???? 02.04.08 @ 2:52 pm

any word on how dodson is doing in community college?

Comment by Ian 02.04.08 @ 4:06 pm

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