January 26, 2012

Providence, the Cure for What Ails You

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 9:32 am

The Pitt team and the fans needed that last night. No argument that Providence is not a very good team — though, I do like their new coach and the potential of the team starting as early as next year. Also no argument that Pitt still has a lot of problems — especially on defense.

That doesn’t change how much of a relief it was to get the win last night for Pitt.

“They are a totally different team (with Woodall),” Providence coach Ed Cooley said. “Everybody is in their role. Everybody is in their comfort zone.”

Woodall ran the Pitt offense to a 22-assist, 10-turnover ratio. He had five assists and no turnovers in the second half.

“I had legs early,” Woodall said. “It was great to get a win under our belt. It’s great to be out here on the court with my team.”

Pitt led, 46-31, at halftime and led by at least seven points the rest of the way to end a skid that had plunged the Panthers from No. 15 in the AP Top 25 to No. 16 in the Big East.

Gibbs, the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, single-handedly took over late in the first half, scoring 14 points in a 3:05 span.

“That was the game,” Cooley said.

For at least one night, we saw Pitt’s offense flow. Gibbs was able to curl and come off of screens clean and showed his quick release that has been missing. No double clutching, no hesitation because there was a defender waiting for him. It had been so long since we had seen that, some might have thought Gibbs was just throwing up shots rather than doing what he had been doing for the past 3+ years.

Tray Woodall just looked like all the rust was off of him in this game. He still got the early rest and Coach Dixon just barely kept his minutes to under 30, but he was sharp.

“(Athletic trainer Tony Salesi) has been doing a great job of shooting me up with some drugs,” Woodall said, drawing laughter.

With a healthy Woodall, we’d be talking about Pitt as a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, flirting with .500 in the Big East.

It’s not that hard to figure out. What is a football team without its starting quarterback?

Dixon smiled when he was asked if he’d learned any lessons during the losing streak.

“I guess it reaffirmed that point guard is important,” he said. “Although I think I knew that beforehand.”

Dixon clapped and very nearly smiled on his way off the court. The players were pleased, as well, though Woodall knows his injury won’t be going away anytime soon. He said he wakes up feeling like an old man.

“The most important thing for this injury is time,” Woodall said. “And I don’t really have that.”

That’s the one lingering terror. This injury could be re-aggravated and Pitt could find itself without Woodall once more this season.

The team, though, was just so much more comfortable looking out there. No one seemed to have the entire weight of the team on them for every shot. For every defensive sequence.

“The players have confidence in him. That’s something you can’t put into words or quantify it. The players have confidence when he is on the floor.”

The Panthers shot 49 percent from the field, their highest shooting percentage in a game since shooting 50 percent against Saint Francis. And, when the shots were not going in early, offensive rebounding allowed the Panthers to build a lead. The Panthers had eight of their 14 offensive rebounds in the first half before Gibbs and Woodall heated up and totaled 18 second-chance points.

Everything, it appears, has clicked with Woodall back in place.

“You can see it in practice,” Dixon said. “You see it in games. It’s different. It’s amazing he’s back playing at this level so quick. He was tremendous. I thought it spread. I think it will continue to spread as we continue to work. We have to have a good day tomorrow to build off it because this is a starting point.”

The one other thing that was noticeable, the weak turnout for the game (and the liveblog). Ron Cook uses it to point out how tough it is to play in a pro-sports town, but to also imply Pitt fans are way too fickle/spoiled. That’s an appealing notion, but it ignores a big difference. This isn’t just a bad season. This was a bad streak. It’s one thing to have this record with wins and losses mixed in. It is another thing when the team has lost 8 straight games. Couple it with a weak opponent, mid-week and yeah, a bad night for attendance. One game, though, does not mean the glory days of the Pete as a place to be are over.

Here’s a video I took of Gibbs coming off a curl last night in the first half
link to
The mistake is that Gibbs’ guy leaves him to follow (Zanna I think) on a cut.

As far as Taylor is concerned, I wish he would get more touches. He was only given one chance to post up last night. He made a good move and put a jump hook an inch short, easily could have made it. We complain about Taylor’s minimal contributions, yet at the same time are we expecting him to get a double double just based on garbage points and the occasional spectacular put-back dunk. Even Gary got 4 or 5 post-up opportunities a night and Taylor is more talented than he is. I’m not completely forgiving Taylor, he seems to have trouble staying motivated at times, but the guards could try a little harder at getting him the ball. They do a great job of hitting Robinson in the middle of the lane, then watching him spin and miss a layup, I see no reason why they can’t do the same with Taylor. A couple more touches and you might see the energized Dante that everyone wants to see. He has the moves. Zanna on the other hand is still better left getting garbage putbacks until further notice.

Comment by Jordan 01.26.12 @ 6:26 pm

I wouldn’t get to excited fellow Panthers, what happened last night was an 0-7 team beat a 1-6 team at home. Now both are sharing last place at 1-7.

Also the law of averages came into play. PITT was bound to win eventually. Hey at least it was this year….right.

H T P !

V E V !

Comment by Emel 01.26.12 @ 8:11 pm

Plz….Taylor has 1 count it one (1) double/double in his career at PITT in 2.5 years. And I think the double/double was against Peabody or Langley. 🙂

Comment by Emel 01.26.12 @ 8:13 pm

RU hasn’t taken Schiano off its website. Not yet. Pitt must have the superior IT department. Fraud was off in a New York minute.
Comment by Scott 78 01.26.12 @ 12:31 pm

Very funny, lmao.

Comment by Emel 01.26.12 @ 8:17 pm

Dante Taylor needs to sit on the bench. He should certainly not be getting 4-5 post opportunities. That is as good as a turnover. The kid isn’t good. It’s his own fault. He doesn’t work.

Comment by omar 01.26.12 @ 8:24 pm

DRW…good analysis. Smizik has a forum and a brand. He grew up in PGH sports world dominated by the pro teams. Significant by it’s absence is an NBA team. Smizik does not know the difference between a pick and a roll so expecting him to assess our talent is a no no.
He ain’t got it and ain’t gonna get it either.
I am going Saturday to look for improvement after a hard day of hoops at ST. Rosalia in Greenfield.

Comment by SFPitt 01.26.12 @ 8:35 pm

Woodall’s return to form just confirmed my pre-season expectations for this team. The big picture:
1) The only 3 guys on last year’s team who knew how to play defense were seniors and are gone, so the only way we can expect to win is with rebounding and offense.
2) Only 7 returning players, poorly distributed: 1 point guard, 1 shooting guard, 5 in the front court. Nothing but freshmen for backup guards, none of whom are ready for prime time minutes. Any time Woodall or Gibbs isn’t on the court, the offense grinds to a halt.

Bottom line, I agree with Ray Fit’s analysis – this is an NCAA bubble team if healthy, after 2 months with Woodall’s injury will be glad to play in the NIT.

Comment by San Diego Panther 69 01.27.12 @ 2:04 am

San Diego — good points.

Jordan — agreed, sort of. Let’s not forget Taylor IS in the top 10 in offensive rebounds in the BE. He’s not worthless. Just disappointing so far. He still has potential now just needs motivation and direction. It seems completely mental with him right now.

Comment by PantherP 01.27.12 @ 11:02 am

Omar, as good as a turnover, really? Better than giving it to Nasir? They’re shooting about the same from the field. The fact remains that Pitt has to do something, whether it’s “trying” to find some sort of an inside presence or what. Otherwise we’re going to have more 2-10 shooting nights from Gibbs from 3 because they have no other offense. I don’t really like having to motivate players (they should find a way to get up on their own), but it might be worth it for Taylor.

Comment by Jordan 01.27.12 @ 12:39 pm

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