And it’s even worse when you have to go on the road and play a top-15 team coming off their own loss.
I was probably more upset by the loss to Rutgers in basketball than the BBVA Bowl game. I was conditioned to expect bad things in Birmingham. Just did not expect to see that mess in Piscataway.
Unlike the other two losses, Pitt didn’t blow it in the second half. No, they made it happen in the first half. Did Rutgers come out extremely hot shooting? Yes. Was Pitt cold? Yes. That still doesn’t explain the horrid first half. About the only explanation that made sense was this:
One cannot expect any Pitt student to perform before noon on a Saturday. Panthers Basketball included.
— Souf Oaklin fo’ Life (@Souf_Oaklin) January 5, 2013
Other than that, your guess is as good as mine.
No, that’s not entirely true. There are some obvious problems in all the losses. The frontcourt not grabbing rebounds. Given the sheer volume of misses by Pitt in the first half and the hot shooting by Rutgers, you would think Pitt would at least get some extra offensive rebounds. Nope. Pitt only grabbed 5 offensive rebounds while shooting a touch over 30% in the first half. Rutgers, on the other hand, shot nearly 58% but still grabbed 4 offensive rebounds.
Yes, some of that concerns shot selection. Pitt was taking a lot more jumpers. Creating longer rebounds, as indicated by Rutgers backcourt players Kadeem Jack and Myles Mack collecting 8 of the boards in the first half. But there was such the passive play of the frontcourt. Not only did Adams and Zanna only nab 5 rebounds, it took them 48 minutes to do that.
Pitt center Steven Adams, however, pointed to the dip in production as a difference in desire. The 7-foot freshman, one of three Pitt players who finished with four rebounds against Rutgers, doesn‘t think the Panthers are playing tough enough in the paint.
“It‘s got nothing to do with shot selection,” Adams said. “It‘s just (about) wanting the ball more. It‘s a mental thing we‘ve got to buy into. When we do that, we‘ll get more rebounds. We‘re going to try and work on our weaknesses. We‘ve just got to play a whole lot harder and with a whole lot more heart, no matter who we‘re playing.”
J.J. Moore and Dante Taylor accounted for 8 rebounds, and they were only on the court for 32 minutes. Taylor, especially, continues to be surprisingly underrated as an offensive rebounder. Three of his four rebounds came on the offensive glass and it was accomplished with only 10 minutes of action.
Last year, one issue with the team all season — whether Tray Woodall was healthy or not — was that the team let problems on offense bother them on defense. Rather than redouble their efforts on defense, they would get frustrated and sloppy. That seems to be happening once more this season.
In both the Cinci and the Michigan losses, we saw it in the second half. The team struggled with scoring as defenses got tighter and Pitt let the missed chances bother them when they played defense. That was along the lines of what we saw in the first half versus Rutgers. About the only positive, from the Rutgers game was that this time the team did not quit (unlike last year).
And as Ray Fittipaldo notes, the biggest problem on defense comes from the frontcourt.
One of the biggest problems is a backcourt that lacks the athleticism to defend opposing guards or create plays on the offensive end.
Dixon made a change in his starting lineup in hopes of sparking his team after the loss to Cincinnati, but the decision to start sophomore Cameron Wright in place of freshman James Robinson failed to provide any advantage. More lineup changes could be forthcoming.
“We have to find a way,” Dixon said. “We have to get the right group. I know it’s there. I believe we can be the team we want to be.”
Fittipaldo seems most disappointed in Trey Zeigler, which has been the reason for more minutes and opportunities for Cam Wright.
Zeigler has been a turnover machine this season. He is tied for the second-most turnovers on the team despite playing the second-fewest minutes. He has 17 turnovers in in 186 minutes played.
Dixon went to Zeigler early in the game, but he had to pull him after he committed two early turnovers in the first half. Zeigler played just two minutes in the second half and finished with two points.
Unfortunately Wright didn’t exactly rise to the first opportunity given.
The problem is more than simply guards that aren’t as athletic as opponents. Pitt hasn’t had really athletic guards for most of the last ten years. The team defense has been plain weak. Players are late moving to provide help. To cut off penetration. To force teams to pass and keep the opposing guards from being in a position where they can penetrate with regularity.
That’s why we are seeing so much more zone. Coach Dixon is trying to take some of the pressure off the frontcourt. The trade-off of the zone, though, is rebounding tends to suffer. Which feeds into the lower rebounding numbers and gives more opportunities for defensive lapses.