Well this is another road game. This time in the Bulls temp home. USF has been better this year, and actually better than decent in whatever facility they decide to use as home court this season. Heck, they’ve actually won their games against Rutgers and DePaul. The Bulls have size up front, so that should be interesting to say the least for Pitt.
While Zanna has been in something of a funk lately, only 9 points and 11 rebounds over the last two games. At the same time Dante Taylor has stepped up a bit. He’s had a good couple of games, but it is hard not to be a little cynical about Taylor at this point. He looked like he was starting to respond during the non-con after Khem Birch went into the starting line-up, but then disappeared once more. So who is absolutely certain what he will do from game to game.
Tray Woodall has been reaping the attention this week. He got national player of the week honors to go with conference honors. The theme of this being Woodall’s team and the leader that I pointed out last week is now getting more play.
Post-Gazette beat writer Ray Fittipaldo notes that in his blog.
“I’ve been saying all year that he’s our captain and our leader, and he’s been showing it,” sophomore forward Lamar Patterson said. “Since he’s come back, we’ve been playing a whole lot better collectively. Just having him out there is good. Everyone’s spirits are up. We work hard and want to get these Ws.”
“We see how hard he worked to get back. It’s an inspiration to see that he’s fighting so hard to keep this season alive. We don’t want to let anyone down – our fans, ourselves and most importantly coach Dixon. We didn’t give up on the season. That’s why we’re on a nice little winning streak.”
Pitt lacked leadership during its eight-game losing streak. Seniors Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robinson are leaders by example, but the Panthers were without their vocal leader. He is back now, and the Panthers are following his lead.
That’s why Nas’ response to every loss was that the team was outworked or the other side wanted it more. It wasn’t necessarily true each time, but that is really the extent of what Nas believes when talking about the team. Putting in the work and effort. There’s also the fact that he couldn’t come out and say, that without Woodall there was no real point guard and players were constantly playing out of position.
Then there is this from Yahoo! on Woodall’s return.
“Everybody has gone back to their comfortable positions, doing what they normally did, what they’re comfortable doing and what they prepared for all offseason,” Woodall said. “Guys who aren’t used to creating don’t have to do it as much and guys who finish plays finish plays.”
The ability of Woodall to help stop dribble penetration has also bolstered Pittsburgh’s struggling defense, but this is still hardly a vintage Jamie Dixon team in that regard.
He isn’t a shutdown defender but Woodall is able to keep his man in front of him. Something the younger guards really struggled to do, or were unable to sustain. Read the whole piece as Woodall talks a bit about the injury and how limited he felt while trying to heal.
Pitt still has to work on closing out games. My working theory involves the minutes that Gibbs and Woodall have to play. They are still forced to play 37-39 minutes — and almost the entire second half of games. That has to take a toll especially in those final minutes when they have to hold the ball and then play defense against teams taking 3s or trying to drive even more. I’m sure Coach Dixon would love to get them spelled more during the game — and we’ve watched him try. It’s just that the drop-off is still too significant to keep them off the court for any length of time.
Anyways, back to tonight. The game is on at 7pm. It’s an ESPN Regional game so your major outlet choices are: Root, SNY, Brighthouse, ESPN FullCourt, ESPN3.com.
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