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December 9, 2009

Not Exactly Vintage

Filed under: Basketball,Big 11,Conference,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 10:15 am

Okay, it was downright ugly.

As I started reading some of the post-game stories I was somewhat surprised. Not that this was the biggest win to date for Indiana post-Sampson. Or that Indiana was desperate for a win. No, it was reading how Pitt was strongly favored, which shocked me. I figured maybe a couple points, but the way Pitt had been playing most certainly would have kept the line down. Yet, there it was. Pitt was around a 9 point favorite. I guess mainly because of Indiana losing 4 games.

It was another poor game for Pitt. An inability to finish around the rim on offense. Guards not penetrating. Sub-32% shooting. And the turnovers. Oh, the turnovers. It was not good.

“We got what we really deserved,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “We didn’t play well. Indiana did.”

The poor shooting made rebounding a most meaningless stat. Pitt won the rebounding battle 45-39, but it mainly came because of the poor shooting and not good defense. Pitt was beaten by 6 on defensive boards but had a 21-9 edge on the offensive boards. Something that will definitely happen when you miss a lot of shots and the other team doesn’t.

The players after the game were focused on the problems at the other end.

“Defensively, we have to strap up,” said sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs, who scored a career-high 25 points. “We have to play tougher, especially down the stretch. Our offense comes from our defense and rebounding.”

Indiana penetrated freely against Pitt’s guards all game. The Hoosiers got to the free-throw line 34 times and converted 25 of those attempts. Verdell Jones, who came into the game averaging 11 points a game, scored 20 and got to the line eight times. Christian Watford got to the line 15 times and scored 12 of his 18 points from the charity stripe.

“It’s been a problem all season,” said junior guard Brad Wanamaker, who scored 18 points. “Guys are getting beat off the dribble. We’re not keeping people in front of us. Our rotation just hasn’t been there. It’s something we have to work on. We talk about it, but we don’t do it.”

“I’m not concerned about the offense,” Taylor said. “I’m more concerned about the defense. We’re letting teams score too easily. We’re not taking pride in defense. We need to put our foot down, stand up and play defense.”

While his impact was not particularly helpful in this game, Jermaine Dixon finally made his first start of the season. 13 minutes. 0 points. 2 rebounds. 1 assist. 1 block. 3 turnovers. 3 fouls.

Playing at MSG for Pitt often involves families and friends. So it is always interesting to see which players press a little too much. Travon Woodall had some 40 friends and family show up. Given how much he has been struggling I’m not sure he really pressed from that or just had another disappointing game. His minutes are dropping (23 last night) along with his scoring while fouls committed keep rising.





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I was at the game last night and I noticed a few things not seen on a Jamie Dixon team in a while. First, Pitt is very young and very tentative. Second, the interior defense, especially in the paint, is a sieve. A mediocre IU team shredded Pitt’s D and after watching G-Town’s Greg Monroe go off in the first game, I can only cringe when I think of what’s to come in the BE. Third, Nasir Robinson is a turnover machine who is too out of control. You can take a guy out of Chester, but you can take the Chester out of…, well, you know. Fourth, where the hell were all of the Pitt fans??? There were more Butler (!!!), yes Butler fans there. Hats off to the Hoosier faithful as it was practically like playing in Assembly Hall in Bloomington than at the Garden, which may be “The most famous arena in the world” but is a dank, poorly-lit, cavernous relic.

Comment by phillypanther 12.09.09 @ 10:46 am

Chas – just a minor correction, Dixon didn’t start. He did play, which is good, but looked pretty rusty. Hopefully, he’ll get up to speed quickly.

I thought the interior defense suffered in large part because the guards were regularly getting beat off the dribble. Once the IU guards penetrated the lane, they were able to find open guys for shots. The perimeter defense has to improve. I think this was the most disappointing aspect of the game for me.

I thought Taylor looked a bit more assertive and seemed a bit more consistent with his positioning. Unfortunately, McGhee really struggled handling the screens and holding on to the ball.

I think the rotation is far from set at this point, and personnel wise, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team looks very different by late January than it does now. Whether that translates into different quality of play remains to be seen.

Comment by Pantherman13 12.09.09 @ 11:10 am

Yea I was also there, the amount of Pitt fans there was pathetic. If their bodies can handle it running more full court defense could be good for a team not yet ready to play defense the way we are accustomed to. Also we really have no alpha male scorer. Nobody on the teams wants the ball and can consistently score. Until someone steps up we are going to mediocre for a while this year.

Comment by Ira 12.09.09 @ 11:16 am

mcghee = lost in the sauce
woodall = not the pg
richardson, miller, zanna, taylor = more playing time

Comment by johnnyrocket 12.09.09 @ 11:18 am

we got hammered inside because we were switching every screen. This ended in bad matchups where bigs got penetrated on and then the dishes were to gaurds defending the post. I love dixon and everything he does, but I cannot fathom the coaching decision to switch the screens. Unless that wasn’t a coach decision. Either way it was horrible. Can Richardson please get more minutes at the 5! At least the kid can hedge a screen. I agreed Taylor looked far better, he seems to not be lacking anything but confidence and I think once he gets that he’ll be ready to do great things. Also, I thought Dwight Miller showed some good things. Robinson needs to find a way to 1) finish around the rim 2) get under control 3) develop some semblance of a shot from inside the foul line, or stay on the bench. The offense is far more functional when he’s out of the game.

Comment by PITTapotamus 12.09.09 @ 11:23 am

I expected that this would be a tough year, and that we were unlikely to make the NCAA tournament. So while I anticipated a struggle this year,my hope was for gradual improvement, while we integrated Brown and Dixon into the rotation. Am concerned that our play has really regressed since the Texas game–our guards can’t properly distribute, our bigs can’t finish around the hoop, and and the D is nothing like a traditional Pitt team. If we can’t correct these problems, the better BE teams will kill us this year.

Comment by tph60 12.09.09 @ 11:58 am

Yaylor showed some progress and can actually shoot free throws…If I were coach Dixon, I would lock Robinson in a gym with Chevy and not let him out until he can make a put back…Why did we wait so long to bomb away? With 3+ min, losing by 15 or so, we are driving to the basket hoping to draw a foul. We did this on at least 3 straight possessions. At that point we should have been shooting 3s as fast as we could get them off.

Comment by HbgFrank 12.09.09 @ 12:35 pm

*Taylor*

Comment by HbgFrank 12.09.09 @ 12:36 pm

There’s just very little this squad’s going to be good at:

*Dixon and Adams are the only decent perimeter defenders and both of them hurt Pitt on offense

*Wanamaker is never going to morph into that 2-guard scorer everybody was hoping for. The shot’s still bad, he can’t finish because he can’t get off the ground and he’s not quick enough to handle the ball enough to take advantage of his passing skills, which are above average.

*Whoever thought the Mullah (Robinson) was going to play inside in the BE is nuts. Absolutely nuts. Love his energy and he does the best he can for a 6’4″ or 6’5″ power forward, but that’s a losing proposition in this level of hoops.

*McGhee………well, he’s huge.

*Woodall’s going to be mostly useless against zones and Pitt’s going to see plenty of them this year because only Gibbs can hit the side of a barn.

*Miller can’t rebound or play D and having a nice face-up jumper isn’t enough to cover up the other stuff.

There have been some serious judgment errors in recruiting over the past few years and no one’s talking about it yet……..

Comment by hugh green 12.09.09 @ 12:54 pm

This team could be the core of a declining men’s b’ball program. Pitt’s had talent deficient teams in the past decade which gave much better effort and at least played smart. This team plays like a turtle in its shell. Hardly anyone even wants to step up and score, and no one even seems capable of defending, much less understanding where they belong in the defensive scheme.

Think of Orlando Lett, Levon Kendall, Chevy Troutman — none of these guys were heralded coming in, but they gave great effort and seemed to both buy in AND understand the system. This team doesn’t rebound or defend well on the block becuase they’re constantly out of position. The guards can’t stop anyone off the dribble.
The contrast between Taylor and Blair is stunning — Blair’s motor made up for some of his lack of polish, but we see so few flashes of Taylor’s polish because he doesn’t seem to have any motor. I couldn’t believe how many times he was unable to finish last night, especially in range where he should have had dunks. To quote Jim Callhoun ripping an underachieving UConn HS all american in practice — “If you’re McDonalds, I want Burger King!”

Wannamaker seems like a perfectly capable player, but I hate his body language on the court and his continuing proclivity towards turnovers. Even without Dixon, someone needs to show some maturity.

This will be Dixon’s greatest test, not because of their youth, but because this squad brings few of the intangible qualities which have defined Pitt basketball over the past decade.

Comment by Ghost of Horn Man 12.09.09 @ 1:20 pm

All good points. I’m scared as a Pitt fan. I agree with HbgFrank. Move Taylor to PF. He does not have the C mentality. I think we have to play Taylor and McGhee together and take our chances. If one gets in fowl trouble, so be it. We will not win in the BE with Nas starting. He may be a nice bench player but should not play anywhere near 30 min/game. I also like what I have seen from Lamar Patterson. However, it appears he is a little out of shape. Anyone else notice our players lack of bounce around the rim? I hope Jamie runs hell practices up until X-mas.

Comment by Ryan 12.09.09 @ 1:27 pm

I’m looking at the list of teams that make up the BE league. I certainly don’t see many W’s among them for Pitt. Are all 16 teams invited to the BE tourney again this year? It may be the only way Pitt will make it (in uniforms) this March.

Comment by BigGuy 12.09.09 @ 1:58 pm

Given Robinson’s struggles to finish, and his size limitations, I think he becomes a bench/role player once Gil Brown returns. Brown isn’t exactly a vintage power forward, but I think he will fill that role on this team. Robinson then becomes a multi-position backup and they can pick spots/matchups where he is more likely to be successful.

I doubted this earlier in the season, but I now agree with Fittipaldo that Gibbs will probably move to the point and Dixon will start at the 2. It’s not ideal, but unless Woodall gets his turnovers under control, he’s not really helping.

The other move I think is coming is getting Taylor (and maybe Richardson) more minutes in the post. I love the effort that McGhee puts forth, but his limitations are likely to become more evident against more athletic big men. As I said earlier, I thought Taylor actually showed some progress against Indiana; hopefully he can build on that.

Comment by Pantherman13 12.09.09 @ 1:58 pm

Taylor looks uncomfortable at the 5, move him back to the 4 and let him be the McDonald’s All American that he is.

Comment by Jimbo Covert's my Dad 12.09.09 @ 2:02 pm

Pitt’s football and basketball teams are allegories of life. A moth ago we believed that the teams were entering a golden age. The football team was destined to be, perhaps, a Top 5 team headed for the Sugar Bowl. Dixon’s “best recruiting class ever” was starting the season. The football team ended up in a non-descript bowl while the basketball team, at least at this point, appears devoid of talent, can’t score, and may end up near the bottom of the standings with no hint of future glory. The scenario is almost like many folk who were quite content and happy one day with their investments right before the housing collapse and then…

Comment by BigGuy 12.09.09 @ 2:17 pm

BigGuy – all 16 teams go again this year, although there was talk of modifying the format to eliminate the “double-bye” that the top four teams got last year. I think it involved having the top 4 teams play the bottom 4 on Tuesday ; the middle 8 playing each other on Wednesday; with the quarterfinals on Thursday. The advantage to the top 4 would be a day off during the tournament rather than a double-bye. I don’t know if that was actually changed though.

Comment by Pantherman13 12.09.09 @ 2:20 pm

one issue I had was the TV announcer saying he was surprised how the younger Indiana team was outperforming Pitt. The fact is that IU had much more starting expereince than the team Pitt had started, which had a total of 1 start under its belt.

Nasir Robinson, even with all of his great effort,is going to be completely dominated in the BE. While there were many problems, I think the inside scoring was the main difference — IU outscored Pitt in the paint by approx 20 pts.

Comment by wbb 12.09.09 @ 2:25 pm

I’m not as down on this team as many people here are. Wannamaker, aside from some turnovers, played well last night and was the only one beside Gibbs with confidence to try to get things going. At points I saw things I liked, but guys just weren’t finishing around the hoop, and hopefully that’s something that will be remedied.

I am disappointed that Dixon won’t put Taylor and McGhee in at the same time. They were getting worked in the paint and he still wouldn’t do it. He played zone for an entire freaking half against Duquesne, so I’m confused why he refuses to even try them together. Taylor did look better last night. My biggest frustration point was the guards not even MFing looking at Taylor in the paint. Several times he was wide open in the middle of that zone and nary a pass went his way.

IMO, everybody just needs to take a deep breath, realize that this is going to be a rough season, and wait to see if, once Jermain Dixon and Gil Brown are firmly back in the fold, they can’t start to really put things together into 40 minutes of solid play.

Comment by Carmen 12.09.09 @ 2:46 pm

It’s not this loss, but the last few games have revealed cracks in the program that haven’t existed since the Willard era.

Wannamaker can’t carry this team (neither can Gibbs), and between injuries and suspension Brown’s been mostly disappointing through his career at Pitt, culminating in him missing 1/2 of his 4th year in the program in what should be his time to lead.

This year is going to be rough — that’s a given. It bugs me that next year is already looking rough too.

Comment by Ghost of Horn Man 12.09.09 @ 3:09 pm

When is Gil Brown expected to come back to the team?

Comment by FourSnow 12.09.09 @ 3:24 pm

Pitt is playing like wimps right now. Nobody wants to take a shot. The defense is awful. I really don’t think they can play much worse than they have the past few games. Jamie Dixon needs to earn his paycheck these next few months. He recruited these kids and he must mold them into a team or start fresh.

Comment by Omar 12.09.09 @ 3:37 pm

wow, the be awards came out today, Dion got ROY and OPY and romeous and williams spit DOY. Stull got 1st team all BE too!
Pitt did great in the awards, just missing the BE championship

Comment by mike 12.09.09 @ 3:58 pm

How stupid must Brown be? With all the academic tutors and help he can get it’s amzing he’s not eligible.

Comment by Topper22 12.09.09 @ 4:03 pm

FourSnow…Gil is expected back after Dec 20th.

I really wasn’t in panic mode unitl I watched that awful game last night. That was not a great Indiana team and we got smoked…None of our guys can finish around the basket…Dante is disappointing as a MCD All-American…and our defense was crap.
Dixon has A LOT to work on. Maybe we can come together by the end of the season to make a run in the NIT (no way we make the Dance this year…no way)
If we finish 9th in the BE, that will be an accomplishment.

fyi- I am not a hater…and actually was on this board last week saying these guys just need time as they are talented…but something else is missing and I fear we are in for a long season. (hopefully only one season)
Dejuan…Sam…Levance…COME BACK!

Comment by bgPitt 12.09.09 @ 4:13 pm

It was more than academics with Brown.

Comment by alcofan 12.09.09 @ 4:21 pm

Its gonna be ugly this year. Blair leaving really hurt. Boring, inexperienced,small, tentative,like Gibbs. Brown better step up and Dixon may give us some experience. The switch man to man that Pitts played so well last year is making a slow McGee confused and he is out of position alot. Scary

Comment by Buzz 12.09.09 @ 5:21 pm

Is the problem guards can’t get the ball inside because they are so tiny they can’t see over the 6′ 4″ + opposing guards?

Comment by steve 12.09.09 @ 5:30 pm

i agree with so much here…..first and foremost we have to change something…..sticking with this man to man defense when no one can guard when isolated is a huge problem…McGee, love his effort, but he just does not have the skill set or the mental game to compete in the Big East….he can be a good bench/role player, but nothing else….I want to see more of Richardson..much more athletic and seems to want to play for his minutes…..also, Taylor needs to be moved to the four…thinking back Lane and Shorter were just slightly over 6’5″ and could produce from the 4…Nasir is overmatched, defenses dont even play him and the TO’s are killers….You can play undersized, but you have to know how to and have desire….Pitt in the past has always had under”height” players…but many of them could just flat out get it done, ie troutman, blair, shorter, etc…….Let’s see if Coach Dixon can make some adjustments, and get the most out of this team…one more comment..Indiana is young, but we also filled the floor with freshman and sophomores….Jermaine doesnt even count…was definitely not ready for game time, but he has to get his minutes….out.

Comment by DRGAGS 12.09.09 @ 5:37 pm

alco – do you have additional/inside info on Brown, or are you deducing that something more must be going on? Just curious.

Comment by Pantherman13 12.09.09 @ 6:23 pm

Holy Cow! Is something wrong with Aaron Gray? Looks like he’s been enjoying a little too much deep dish. Shawn Kemp-esque.

Comment by Dave in Orlando 12.09.09 @ 9:41 pm

I agree, the desire,effort and most important for underdogs is heart. I dont see these kids having it. They dont outwork the opponent or crash the boards in force. They were very boring to watch. I have never said that about a PItt team and I have been going to games since Jerome Lane and Co. been playing. Coach Dixons recuiting can be questioned as well. Is there any big east team we can beat with this team?

Comment by Buzz 12.09.09 @ 9:57 pm

i also heard from inside sources that it was more than not putting up the grades for brown

Comment by jtads14 12.09.09 @ 11:26 pm

Lets face it , this team is not very talented. Yes their young and inexperienced, but although I think they will show improvement, I dont think as much as we would like. First of all, alot of these players are lacking the physical tools to compete in the big east. UConns and Gtowns guards dont quite look like Pitts guards. What I’d like to see is Coach Dixon get out of his set ways and adjust to the players he has. Offensively, I think he’s going to need to spread the floor more and try to free some of these guys up. Also, I would love to see them run off of made shots. Walking the ball up with this team is just asking to run into trouble as the shot clock winds down. Push it up and try to get an open look before the D sets up. Defensively, I would hope they pressure a little more. Especially with 3 or 4 small guards on the court at the same time. Lastly, I know its how he plays his defense, but there is absolutely NO need for Gary McGhee to hedge out so far when the screen takes place 30 feet from the basket. A screen that far out, just have McGhee sag off until the guard gets through. The way they run it now, its asking for a foul to be called or giving up an open shot as everyone scrambles to cover for each other.

Comment by Z-boy 12.09.09 @ 11:32 pm

Everyone’s been wondering why Dixon asks his 5 man to hedge 40 feet from the hoop for years. How many fouls did Blair and Gray pick up that way?

I’m glad folks are starting to realize that the recruiting has been really questionable for a while now. We can all hope that they kids coming in next year are different, but there are now a bunch of “misses” playing major minutes for what has been a leading BE program.

Comment by hugh green 12.10.09 @ 8:15 am

What this team lacks, IMHO, is FINISHERS.

Say what you want, we always had FINISHERS.

I counted 10 chances where we could have finished a putback or layup and we flat out BONED it.

We have one finisher on this team, and we beat IU easily.

Troutman, Blair…these guys were finishers.

We have noone of the sorts on this team.

I wish Nasir would be that guy, but he isn’t cutting it.

Comment by Pauly P 12.10.09 @ 12:07 pm

On the Brown rumors, it appears that he’s either interning with the PA Staties or rendering services to the community. Perhaps forced. Perhaps not.

“Smh state police is crazy man…. Got me out here in the freezing cold moving stuff..low key it’s a good work out…”

Source: link to twitter.com

Comment by Dave in Orlando 12.10.09 @ 12:33 pm

[...] me a favor. Go back a couple years after Pitt lost in MSG to a less than good Indiana squad. Take a look at the comments after that game. That was a bad loss. To a team that ended the season 10-21. Before that Pitt needed double-OT to [...]


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