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January 28, 2013

Burying DePaul and Preparing for Ville

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 11:16 am

First off, a big, big thanks to Curt and Voodoo Brewery for an excellent Sunday. That was a great time and plenty of Pitt guys showed up — especially from Grove City — to take a tour, sample some amazing barrel-aged beers and just have some good conversation — about beer and Pitt. I can’t say enough about the barrel samples that Curt provided. Those were some of the most complex, delicious beers I’ve had.

The HTP IPA was an excellent beer. Citrusy on the nose, that excellent hop bite, but still easy to drink. Glad I took home a couple growlers of that.

If you like good beer, you owe yourself a trip out to Meadville to tip a couple back at Voodoo. And ask to speak with Curt. As he freely admits, he is always there.

Okay, on to Saturday’s devastation.

The bad first. The first 8 or 9 minutes. When Pitt was not looking sharp — 8-21 shooting and 5 turnovers. Even then, Pitt ended up building a 10 point lead. Which — yes — is an indication of how bad DePaul is. How they beat Providence and Arizona State seems more surprising.

Everybody played for Pitt. Everybody scored.

Pitt’s bench accounted for 52 points. Reserve guard Trey Zeigler scored a game-high 18 to lead all scorers, but he was not the only one to have a star next to his name on the score sheet. In a phenomenal demonstration of balanced scoring, the Panthers had nine players with seven points or more in a rout that was basically over by halftime.

“We have a lot of balance, a lot of great players,” said Zeigler, who recorded his season high. “When you have 10 guys who all bring something to the table, you’ll have nights like this.”

It was an historic day for Pitt, playing its final season in the Big East. Barring another blowout in the final 10 regular-season games, this will go down as the biggest rout in the record book. The 38-point victory was the Panthers’ largest in a Big East game. The previous record was a 36-point win against West Virginia in 2003.

“In this league, you’re going to play good people and you rarely think you’re going to have a game like this,” Dixon said. “It just doesn’t happen. For whatever reason, it did. I think our unselfishness was a big part of it. Once we got ahead, we didn’t look for our own. We looked for each other, and that was the key to sustaining it.”

Not only scored, but rebounded and dished the ball.

For Coach Dixon, this game still gives him something to get on the team. The turnovers.

Despite the easy victory, Pitt committed a season-high 18 turnovers.

“We had too many,” Dixon said. “You are going to have more against the way DePaul plays (up-tempo). We have to be able to play through the press and attack on the backside.

“We did a good job, but too many (turnovers) and some were unforced.”

I’m not terribly stressed about the turnovers, simply because I expected more than usual in this game. It’s the nature of playing teams that press. There are going to be more turnovers. Maybe not as many as 18, but there will be more. The difference with this squad is that they get out in transition more swiftly. If the opposing team misses a shot, Pitt is ready to go up court on the rebound. They can’t spring a quick trap or press on this group off a defensive board. The press only can come when they make their shots.

Of course, you don’t have games like this without your team being on, and the opponent off. DePaul Coach Oliver Purnell really had nothing that could explain the day other than it being one of those games.

“This is one we’d like to flush away and burn the tape,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “I thought they were pretty good, and I thought we were awful.”

That’s probably their best option.

Moving on to tonight…

I admit, I’d feel much better about Pitt’s chances against Louisville if the Cards had beaten Georgetown. As it stands Louisville has now lost three straight after getting ranked #1. Louisville Coach Rick Pitino isn’t really panicking. He’s too experienced, smart and savvy for that. He’s a master manipulator. Right now he is “calling out” his team and the fans.

“We have got to get the KFC Yum Center — it’s got to be much better than Syracuse, much better than Kentucky, because we have to get this win,” Pitino said. “It’s a must game for us, because four … now you’re on the verge of like getting a sub-.500 record in the league and you don’t want to mess with that. We’ve got to get after it.”

It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling thing. You know the crowd will be juiced because it’s a Big Monday ESPN game. He’s putting it out there as an extra spur. Trying to claim that they weren’t pumped when Syracuse and Kentucky were there for games. Which on its face is absurd. The chicken place was packed and loud. Just like it will be tonight. The Pitt players know it.

No matter Pitino’s mood, Pitt guard Tray Woodall expects to see white at the 22,090-seat KFC Yum! Center, where the Panthers are 0-2.

“Every time I’ve played there, there’s a whiteout,” Woodall said. “It’s a crazy atmosphere. They feed off their fans, especially with their press. We’ve just got to be ready. They’re extremely well coached, and those guys play really hard. We have to be prepared mentally to go into that game.

“I’m sure after they lost the first one, (Pitino) was telling his team it’s a must-win. I’m sure he’s lighting a fire to their (butt) right now because he needs them to play better. He’s going to try to have them prepared for us.

“I don’t think they’re going to be on their heels because that crowd there, they ignite that team. I think those guys will be ready.”

Part of what has fueled the Cardinal losses has been that they are not shooting well. They have shot 63-163. That’s 38.7%, the Jamie Dixon favorite sub-40% shooting goal. So not only aren’t they scoring, it means they can’t run their press as much. And it turns out their half-court and transition defense is not so hot.

There is no question that Pitt is playing better. Just as those wins at Villanova and Georgetown are looking better, Pitt has been improving. The unknown is by how much. This is a road test at a place they have yet to win. Both losses there were by three points and painful. Winnable, but Pitt couldn’t quite get it.





Louisville may have been counting those last 2 games as Wins before they played them (after Syracuse). BE road games can humble you.

Now all of the “MUST WIN” pressure is on the Cards.

I hope that Pitt goes into the game loose and has fun. Win or loose Pitt does not gain/loose much.

But a Pitt win really hurts Louisville.

Comment by xfmrman 01.28.13 @ 12:08 pm

*Win or lose Pitt does not gain/lose much.

Comment by xfmrman 01.28.13 @ 12:12 pm

On the contrary, xf, a road win in the BE, against a previous #1 is a much bigger deal. A loss against Louisville, on their home court, is usually assumed–regardless of the competition.

So, I think a win by the Panthers tonight has a larger upside, although a competitive loss won’t hurt.

Comment by Lou 01.28.13 @ 12:23 pm

I kind of expect the same result … Pitt is competitive but loses. I agree with Chas that it would have been better if Lousville had beaten GTown.

Comment by wbb 01.28.13 @ 12:28 pm

A pressing team wants you to tighten up and be stressed in the way you move the ball. I hope Pitt stays loose but not too loose. Pitt used 2 new press breaks that I had not seen ever in Pitt’s repetoire! It’s easy when you have a 7′ post player who can move his feet.

I think tonights game we be a real show of how far Pitt has come.

Comment by Dan 72 01.28.13 @ 12:54 pm

Seems pretty simple to me tonight. Handle the pressure well and get rebounds = W.

They need to keep attacking that rim. Zeigler is feeling that vibe and I think the others are feeding off of it. I predict another big game for him tonight.

Comment by Carmen 01.28.13 @ 1:01 pm

Lou:

I understand, but they are still road losses. Georgetown And Villanova did not win @ the Chicken Bucket like Syracuse.

I do agree that a win has more up-side. But I can already hear the nay-sayers “Louisville was over-rated, they are slumping, Pitt caught them on a bad nite…” and etc.

The good thing is the unbalanced BE sched. A win really puts Pitt in great position going forward.

Comment by xfmrman 01.28.13 @ 1:05 pm

I agree that there’s more upside than downside here, but Pitt’s going to need at least a few signature wins for the resume. The road vs Georgetown was nice, but overall their mark against ranked opponents isn’t good. Not to get too far ahead, but a 4th consecutive loss could take a little bit of the shine off beating Louisville.

I’d settle for protecting home court in the tough games (Cuse & ND) and beating the lesser teams on the road, but I’m greedy and want to see Pitt win them all.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 01.28.13 @ 1:24 pm

If Pitt shoots 70+% from FT line they will win tonight. H2P!

Comment by MariettaMike 01.28.13 @ 1:37 pm

Marietta – I would gladly take 60% from the free throw line. I wish everyone would watch how Robinson shoots FT’s. Great balance, minimum of movement, short arc,elbow tucked. I am shocked when one of his Ft’s misses. Adams, Zanna, Patterson, Wright…not so much.

When your legs go, and your arms are tired, all you have to fall back on is your form. Robinson’s is the best I’ve seen at Pitt since #4 played guard.

Comment by Dan 72 01.28.13 @ 1:44 pm

Pitt’s recent win streak still has not allowed us to crack this week’s Top 25, which is not a huge surprise.

Butler however, coming off a big home win against Gonzaga, lost to LaSalle, and barely beat Temple. The Bulldogs are still ranked #9 in both AP and ESPN polls.

Marquette is #25.

Comment by Lou 01.28.13 @ 2:00 pm

Looks like Pitt has to beat LOU and SYR to get ranked. That is why I hate polls.

Comment by Frank MD 01.28.13 @ 2:11 pm

Pitt’s schedule is BRUTAL over the next couple of weeks. They have, @Louisville, Syracuse, Seton Hall, @Cinci, @Marquette and ND. They will probably be underdogs in FIVE of those 6. If they can somehow come away 3-3 in that stretch, they will be well positioned for a March run.

And I do believe that this will be the first Dixon team to be playing MUCH better in March than they did in late January/early February.

Comment by boubacar aw 01.28.13 @ 2:11 pm

OK – don’t tell me about last year, yes they were playing better in March. But they were so God-awful in January that it didn’t matter what they did in March.

I would not want to be Duke and have to play Pitt in the second round of the NCAA tourney.

Comment by boubacar aw 01.28.13 @ 2:15 pm

Well, Cincy and Marquette are 24 and 25 and we’ve lost to both of them this year so it makes some sense. Just don’t understand why G’Town, among others, is so far ahead of us.

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.28.13 @ 2:17 pm

We always play hard at Louisville and lose.That being said this team playing their best is no patsy and Blackshear is said to be out with a shoulder injury.I think Pitt could have a breakout week and tonight is where it starts.HTP

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.28.13 @ 3:16 pm

Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware out for Louville tonight.

Comment by alcofan 01.28.13 @ 3:22 pm

Coming into Big East play, I figured the Louisville game on the road, and Syracuse game at the Pete, were two that Pitt would not have much of a chance to win. If they lose both, but win 3 of the next four, I still think they will bwe ok. However if they upset either Louiville or Syracuse, it will terrific for them. I think the Panthers are playing with house money, because no one expects them to win.

Comment by Justinian 01.28.13 @ 3:29 pm

jftr I prefer being unranked coming into the games against Louisville and Syracuse. I hope the guys have giant chips on their shoulders and it adds to their motivation.

Comment by Pitt Dad 01.28.13 @ 3:38 pm

Regardless of the crowd or Pitino’s urging, I think the Louisville players will have “Finally, a team that will be easy to beat” on their minds. Not a great frame of mind to go in with, for sure!

Comment by Art Davis 01.28.13 @ 4:09 pm

Hoping they play like they did in Washington DC a few weeks ago…
..win tonight (or even play well) and polls will take care of themselves.
At least a Pitt player finally got some love from Big East media….Patterson is on Honor Roll for player of the week…first time a Pitt player had been listed all year and last Big East team to get a player on…most teams had multiple players listed this year already. (Robinson did get rookie of the week ealry in season though.)

Comment by milo bloom 01.28.13 @ 4:17 pm

Well, here we are headlining Big Monday. Enjoy it because after this we get Tepid Tuesday, Worthless Wednesday, Throw-out Thursday and “F’d” up Friday before we see another meaningful game for us Pitt fans. Bring home a winner tonight men! HTP!

Comment by longsufferingpittfan 01.28.13 @ 4:28 pm

Does the line (Pitt +6) account for Blackshear and Ware?

Comment by xfmrman 01.28.13 @ 4:31 pm

Luckily polls are meaningless in college basketball. Nothing like having similar resumes to Georgetown, crushing them on the road and being ranked behind them.

I’d be happy with a split of the next two, mildly surprised with winning both and ehh with two losses.

Comment by Wardapalooza 01.28.13 @ 4:33 pm

Anyone know if Pitino is still crying about Pitt abandoning the Big East? What a remorseless hypocrite! I was kind of looking forward to him stuck in BE purgatory, but we’ll meet again in two years. Enjoy playing another season on the Titanic-like deck of the Big (Ea)(Mid/We)st/South + ‘No Catholic schools allowed’ Conference next year!

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 01.28.13 @ 4:39 pm

Ghost,While we are kicking butt in the ACC I hope.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.28.13 @ 5:09 pm

anybody know what kind of record pitt needs to make the tournament? I think just making it would be a successful season.

Comment by goalie44 01.28.13 @ 5:30 pm

Goalie…looks like 10-11 wins in the BE. My guess is 11 because the selection committee always likes to screw Pitt….especially if their NC schedule is weak…..which it was of course.

Comment by Jackagain† 01.28.13 @ 5:57 pm

Another thing, goalie-I think Pitt is currently lacking a signature win on their résumé. The wins against Georgetown and Nova could turn out bigger, especially if those two teams keep winning. Otherwise, we don’t have much to hang our hats on right now. We play Cincy and Marquette again, on the road, and have ND at home. If we keep improving, and keep winning games, we’ll be fine, but lose to Ville, Cuse, and those previously mentioned teams, and it forces us to go deep into the BE tourney for consideration.

Comment by Lou 01.28.13 @ 6:25 pm

Dixon has to stop benching Adams when he gets one foul….the guy is too scared to play right now.

Comment by Jackagain† 01.28.13 @ 7:20 pm

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