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February 8, 2012

LiveBlog: Pitt-USF

Filed under: Basketball,liveblog — Chas @ 1:57 pm

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.

The usual rules are in place for this liveblog. Moderated chat. Not every comment will get pushed through. Especially when they say the exact same thing as a bunch of other comments. Dumb and abusive comments will be mocked, ignored and/or blocked depending on my whims and whether I can get a cheap laugh out of it. There is no formula to it. It comes down to judgment calls.

As always if you need to break the liveblog from the site, Click Here.

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Having Gibbs, Patterson, and Robinson on the floor together is a disaster against an athletic team like USF. USF isn’t good, but they are athletic. Gibbs can’t get a shot off against players with length. Patterson can’t defend athletic players. And Robinson is feast or famine. Yesterday was famine.

Woodall and Zanna are athletic, but when you have them surrounded by the aforementioned three, it doesn’t matter. Dixon was crazy to start all three of these guys.

I CANNOT wait until Gibbs graduates. I’ve hated his game for 4 years. Please just leave. Honestly, removing him from the team is addition by subtraction. He sucks.

Comment by omar 02.09.12 @ 12:59 pm

There are certain coaches that know how to beat us or give us fits. Stan Heath of USF is one of those coaches. Hate to bring back this nightmare, but Heath was coach at Kent State in 2002, who beat us in OT in the Sweet 16. That Kent State team was good, but it wasn’t better than PITT. They had one guy who was a matchup problem and that was Antonio Gates.

We needed a better game plan last night, as PITT looked totally unprepared. We knew they had length and athleticism on the wings and were bigger and more physical than us underneath.
So one thing we couldn’t do was get into a half court game with them. Which is exactly what we did. The only way you can beat a team that’s bigger and more athletic than you is to beat them up the floor and get into an uptempo game. Plus Pitt’s halfcourt offense is pretty bad. Seems like a no brainer here.

Comment by Emel 02.09.12 @ 3:47 pm

That Kent State team never gets any respect. I think they had about the same record as Pitt that year and my guess is that Huffman kid played more professional ball than anyone on that Pitt squad ever did. And, from what I remember, their other guard was money, too. That was a tough loss to take, but it was a pretty even match up.

So when was the last time you saw Pitt try to play up tempo? Do you really think that’s a possibility? What about the last ten years would lead you to believe that Dixon would change style?

By the way, I’m not advocating that Dixon change approach. I don’t think he has the horses to run.

Comment by george.bentel 02.09.12 @ 5:08 pm

and I agree with you, Omar, on Gibbs. It’s so painful to watch.

But I’d debate a bit on the characterization of Woodall and Zanna as athletic. Zanna gets up and down the floor well, but he’s far from athletic. An athletic guy his size would block an occasional shot and dunk over somebody once in a while. Not thinking either of those things is happening anytime soon……

And Woodall is passably quick, but that’s only part of being an athletic guard. I think of an athletic PG as someone who’s fast enough to be disruptive on defense and fast/strong enough to get in the lane repeatedly to finish or set up others.

Comment by george.bentel 02.09.12 @ 5:21 pm

We fell off in comparison to athletic skills of rated programs, but we are better than our record. I’m willing to throw out SF game as an aberration, especially because I think we’ll beat them at the Pete. The SH game is a must win or we lose the argument that those early losses to teams like Rutgers were also an aberration. We need a solid road performance and the Hall is coming off an emotional high, beating Rutgers. Pope scares me in this game for what he can do and Gibbs and Nas for what they can’t.

Comment by Old School Panther 02.11.12 @ 10:57 am

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