February 26, 2013

Sort of Rebounding Against the Johnnies

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 8:19 am

A day late but the football schedule stuff pushed things out.

Well, Travon Woodall did. It was a little different for the rest of the team. Lamar Patterson snapped out of his funk in the second half. Steven Adams had a great first half, but disappeared in the second. Talib Zanna… /sigh.

You could see from the opening miss by St. John’s that Pitt had put a re-emphasis all week on rebounding. Specifically, everyone better rebound. Multiple Pitt players were around the basket on every shot by the Red Storm.

Lamar Patterson said Pitt placed a premium on rebounding drills following losses to Marquette and Notre Dame in which the Panthers were beaten on the boards by margins of nine and 15, respectively. The focus was on boxing out and being aggressive, given that Pitt has found that winning the rebounding battle is a formula to its success. Even so, St. John’s finished with a 39-38 edge, including 15 offensive to Pitt’s 11. “In all of our losses, coach gave us a number like negative-eight on the rebounding margin,” Patterson said. “Numbers don’t lie. When we win, we usually outrebound teams. We didn’t do it (Sunday), but that’s usually the outcome, so we want to put the emphasis on rebounding.”

It helped St. John’s offensive rebounding in the second half that they shot only 26% (7-27) including 0-8 on 3s — providing plenty of long rebounds as Pitt crashed the glass.

St. John’s did little with 11 second half offensive rebounds, since they offset the extra chances with 9 turnovers in the second half. St. John’s slowly unraveled with every miss. With every frustrating chance on offense where Pitt’s defense gave them no space. It’s what you do to a young team. You make them impatient. Frustrated. Careless.

The story of the game was Travon Woodall. So many games against St. John’s I can remember seeing the NY/NJ guys struggle badly. They so much want to show everyone back home their game. Woodall didn’t have that problem. Despite distractions.

Woodall was honoring his grandmother, Elizabeth Ratliff, who has been hospitalized for the past 10 days with stroke-like symptoms. A 5-foot-11 guard, Woodall put his worries to the side for two hours and played one of the best games of his career in Pitt’s 63-47 Big East Conference beat-down of the Red Storm, scoring a season-high 25 points before 9,129 fans, including many family members who welcomed a distraction from their family ordeal.

“My grandma is very sick,” Woodall said after the game. “I played for my grandmother.”

Woodall was 8 for 14 from the field, 4 for 7 from 3-point range, and had 2 assists, 2 steals and 0 turnovers in 31 minutes. He scored 15 of his points after halftime when the Panthers had to battle back after St. John’s took one-point leads twice in the early stages of the second half.

“He was terrific in every way,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “Every shot he took was a good shot. I can’t say enough about how well he played. I don’t think he took a bad shot or made a bad pass. That says a lot, playing 31 minutes.”

After the game he talked of playing “fearless.” I, for one, was filled with fear as he got knocked down, kneed in the head and generally showed little regard for the safety of his body at points in this game. I know that is how he plays, and he is at his best when he is that way. Still, Pitt really can’t afford to lose him.

Also related to Woodall, check out this piece on Woodall still being tight with his high school teammates. It also gives me a chance, once more, to highly recommend catching “The Street Stops Here.”

Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna started this game playing as badly as they did in the Notre Dame game. The difference was that Patterson responded to getting yanked early, and being on a short leash.

In a first half that saw him play only 11 minutes, Patterson committed 4 turnovers, took only a couple shots and just looked completely out-of-sorts. In the second half, he came back strong. 3-4 shooting, 5 rebounds, a couple steals. I don’t want to say a different player. Just the one we had seen up until the past week.

Zanna. Well, Zanna is a mess. He’s got no confidence in his game. He looks completely lost out there. This is the same kid who exploded against Georgetown. Who had made huge strides this season. But now looks so regressed. It has to be mental. Since he started his shooting slump, everything else has been getting worse. He only played 4 minutes in the second half.

Unfortunately there isn’t a lot that can be done for him. He has to get it figured on the fly, because he is still needed. The rotation isn’t deep enough in the frontcourt. He’s still a better defender and presence out there at the 4 than J.J. Moore or even Dante Taylor. The latter actually got some minutes at the same time with Adams. Taylor is not a four. Period.

Like so many other teams in not just the Big East, but in the top-25, this Pitt team is given to huge fits of inconsistency. We will see what team shows up on Wednesday.

Emel ,You are writing off Zanna way too soon.He is a big body 6’10” and he can actually shoot 17’footers.He is also a reasonably capable foul shooter.He has long arms and should be scoring 15 pts. a game cleaning up garbage after Adams.The problem is Adams is taking shots like he is at the doctors,NO THANKS HERE YOU TAKE IT.He needs to use his superior size and strength to force teams to defend low.Instead we get a pass around folly that not only looks stupid ,it doesn’t work.Zanna needs to hang around and clean up after the 10 missed shots Adams should be generating.Our guards need to learn to lob,give Adams and Zanna the ball above the shoulders so they can go straight up,it isn’t rocket science.I am amazed at how bad our offensive pattern is.The most amazing part is that we still win a lot of games anyway.Other than Georgetown,Syracuse,and Depaul we haven’t played well in any games this year.This team has the potential to murder teams inside and instead runs the dumbest looking offense I have ever seen.If they ever catch on to the simplicity of the lob-force-follow mindset on offense we will dominate.Short of that I don’t see any hope of climbing out of the inconsistant, sloppy looking,mess we call an offense.The good news is we are actually very good at D,and we turn the ball over less than most of Dixon’s teams.Another peculiar thing about these guys is they are afraid to foul.I think we should be the exact opposite.I could live with Taylor fouling out of every game,Zanna too.If we physically pounded some of these guys they wouldn’t be so frisky come crunch time.We are falling prey to this concept by depending on Woodall too much.How many more times can he knock his head on the floor and still be effective?When you have a size and strength advantage and don’t use it you look like a pussy.Apologies for the sexist verbage,but that is the exact mindset this team needs to adoptand soon.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.27.13 @ 10:16 am

RE: Fouling
I could not agree more. The front court has 16 fouls to give (I do not count the 5th). Opponents should pay for entering the paint. Either block the shot or give a HARD (clean) foul.
The only draw-back is that Pitt’s opponents shoot well from the line (especially Villanova).
But, forcing a player to pick himself up off-of the floor to “earn” it wears on a team.
When Cooley dunked after Zanna lazily swatted at the inlet pass, while Zanna just watched, brought me out of my seat and skin.

Comment by xfmrman 02.27.13 @ 11:06 am

X,I don’t think Zanna is very smart.I don’t think he is lazy,lacks talent,lacks heart,lacks toughness,or any other form of failure.I think he lacks intelect and that is why he looks so bad so often.I am not an authority just a seasoned and close observer.Even though he is a 4th year junior I still hold out hope that he will have a lightbulb go off one day.Maybe I am only dreaming but I think he is a perfect bookend for the smart Adams.If Adams would become a selfish ballhogging force the ball to the hoop type not only would he score 15+ a game Zanna would too,simply cleaning up the garbage.These guys are as big and strong as any front pair in the country.I ask the question,why are they not feared by our opponents?We play 3 games in a row that make very little diference.I think it is high time for these two in particular to send a post season warning out.We are big and mean and it hurts to get in our way.Villanova didn’t play half as tough after Krauser poked that kids eye out in the garden,and I don’t think we have anything to lose by getting nasty.This team isn’t going anywhere significant without a mood swing.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.27.13 @ 11:46 am

Maybe Jamie will find a surprising “go to” guy next year.

Tyler Boyd hit the game-winner last night as Clairton pulled the upset against the defending Class A champs.

What can you say? Playmakers are playmakers.

Just kidding about Boyd playing two sports.

But expecting him to make an immediate impact in the fall both as a wideout and also out of the backfield where finding some speed has to be a major priority if the team is going to compete with the likes of FSU.

Comment by PittofDreams 02.27.13 @ 11:49 am

Gottlieb is stating his opinion. The reality is the Pitt does more with less than UConn and Syracuse in the Big East. In all probability that will also be the case with North Carolina and Duke in the ACC. Over the years Jamie Dixon has consistantly accomplished more with less than anyone else in the business. To his critics who say that Pitt has under achieved, I respond to the contrary, that they have made the very most of the talent they have had. In other words, they’ve over achieved. I don’t think they will change, because Pitt is not North Carolina or Duke and I don’t expect that Jamie will be putting 4 or 5 McDonald’s All-Americans on the floor any time soon.

Comment by Justinian 02.27.13 @ 12:02 pm

JUST, Your points are valid.We better hope he doesn’t put too many MacDonald’s types on the floor because those that he have gotten haven’t done squat.Duke and NC don’t recruit, they invite. It is to Dixon’s credit that we are competitve at all. In fact how do the Dukies and Tar Heels ever lose.With the talent that they attract they are the underacheivers.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.27.13 @ 12:11 pm

I’m interested to see how Jamie-Ball (a direct descendant of Ben-ball) plays in the ACC. I have a feeling not nearly as tolerated as in the BE.

Jamie may indeed to be forced to recruit all of the McD’s as he is able to.

Comment by wbb 02.27.13 @ 12:19 pm

Gottlieb is filling word space. He is thinking this thinking that. Dixon is hopefully at Pitt until he retires.

I like him as a coach and man.

Comment by Frank MD 02.27.13 @ 12:19 pm

Very good point Spirit. I was watching Marquette vs. Syracuse the other night, and could not help but wonder how it is that Syracuse ever loses a game. That team is loaded with long, athletic, very skilled players. Yet, Marquette won the game playing “Jaime Ball”. They just out worked Syracuse.

Comment by HbgFrank 02.27.13 @ 12:21 pm

Spirit, I have to disagree with you. I think you are way off base saying Zanna isn’t smart. I think it is all toughness and balance. In his first two years I never saw a big man on the ground as much as him. Part of it is because he is new to the physicality, part of it is because some guys just don’t have the balance and natural ability to keep their feet underneath them.

Some guys are like cats that always land on their feet. I don’t think he likes the physical contact or understands the use of leverage. He is not nonathletic, but certainly does not have the natural instincts of many players.

The fact that he has so few assists is an indicator that he does not understand or have a feel for the flow of the game. If anything he is thinking too much and the game has not slowed down for him as it seems it has for Adams. It may be in his head, but it has nothing to do with intelligence. He needs to play with an edge, he needs to play angry, he needs to assert his manhood, it may not be in him.

Everyone has their limits. Chevy Troutman was a most physical basketball player. But when he tried out for the NFL, he didn’t have the stomach for the violence. Is it a sign of intelligence to not want to take a beating? Most would say yes.

Some guys have a mean streak. When DeJuan dumped Thabeet, the play was over, he didn’t have to toss him. He did it to assert his manhood. Some guys are just hard cases, Ty Cobb comes to mind.

Comment by gc 02.27.13 @ 12:26 pm

We beat the Dukies on a neutral court the last time we played. Too much freshman Blair and the trump shot by his little buddy Feilds.One of my top 5 Pitt hoops memories all time.I can’t wait to play the Tar Heels.They are among the worst coached teams in college hoops.If Dixon had half that much talent in Oakland we would have won the national championship by now.The only thing I don’t like about going to the ACC is I will miss playing UConn and the West byGod Virginia hoopies.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.27.13 @ 12:41 pm

gc,I see merit in your argument however I am not willing to concede mine ,which I acknowledge is only a suspicion.Zanna runs the court well,and I don’t agree with your assertion as to a lack of instinct.I think the culture shock of leaving Africa and the adjustments to America both emotionally and intelectually have stunted Talib to some degree.Again this is just a guess because he is one of my favorite players.I keep dreaming that lightbulb will go off and the Big Z will shine.Maybe I just refuse too admit what I hear and see so often,Talib sucks.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.27.13 @ 12:55 pm

A year ago I argued that we would be crazy to let go of a natural, backyard rivarly like WVU. I guess I’ve changed my tune especially if we can get a home and home going with PSU which now seems to be interested.

It would still make sense to play WVU in pre-season BB but that’s about it

Comment by wbb 02.27.13 @ 12:59 pm

Spirit, lots of guys have come from Africa and done pretty well. Zanna is frustrating because he is 6’10” and pretty coordinated, runs well like you said. It’s not a lack of smarts that keeps getting his shots blocked. It’s that he pauses to think about it before he acts. He should be knocking guys down instead of getting knocked down. This takes will. I think that is what he is missing.

I too want to see the light bulb go off. Time is running out. Maybe Gary McGee could drop by to push him around a little bit.

Comment by gc 02.27.13 @ 1:22 pm

I too can’t wait to play Duke and NC. Just like Syracuse, UConn, Louisville, and Georgetown, they will always have better (higher rated) players than us.

Aggressive Defense and a team approach will make us competitive. It will be interesting to see how much the physical play will be tolerated. Coach K has always got the calls in the ACC.

If Adams stays next year will be great!

Comment by gc 02.27.13 @ 1:34 pm

I really don’t understand the apprehension over the quality of the BB teams in the ACC. Haven’t we been playing in the strongest BB conference for years now?

Comment by classof 69 02.27.13 @ 1:59 pm

I agree that the overall quality is better in the BE, but again, my concern is how much the Pitt style of play will be tolerated.

Comment by wbb 02.27.13 @ 2:59 pm

gc, I keep hearing the word confidence concerning Talib.He could use a big dose for sure and these next 3 games is a great chance to develop some.I hope he has a big night tonight.I thought he was coming around at Cincinatti but Marquette was a setback and I heard he had the flu at St. Johns.I think if Adams would start shooting it would help Zanna. 69 I’m with you,I think we will do just fine in the ACC and maybe it is their problem that they have to play us.

Comment by spiritofsection22 02.27.13 @ 3:29 pm


agree with most of your thoughts, our halfcourt offense is mostly horrid to watch. And yes they need to throw the entry pass sometimes, over the defense…with a lob pass. Mind you not every time, but if they’re hedging on you and with a 7 footer, they don’t seem to EVER EVEN TRY IT !

As far as Zanna, yes he has the height (6-9) and a good body……but he plays small…most of the time. I’ve never seen anyone get his shot blocked so much.

I just think he’s a guy who can play well against low D1 teams ( as he’s proved over several seasons) and he can play in transition, but when up against the better teams and better opponents that of are equal size, he folds. Big case of the yips.

Watch he’ll have a big game tonight 🙂

Hope he does….

Comment by EMel 02.27.13 @ 3:35 pm

Are you all crazy we have a 7ft center who can shot from 15 to 20 ft consistently. Who now has learned when he gets the pass at the waist use a head fake do not just take the ball up.
The guards have to both penetrate and back passes above the ankles and make entry passes far enoungh away so their defender can not just reach around and swat the ball.
Finally Dixon needs to impress that it is not Woodall who can carry this team (forget about the anomaly at the garden/he is a 30% FG shooter) it is Adams.
Dixon needs to demand it from him and work on play sets that get him the ball rather that play catch around the perimeter.

Comment by pittisit 02.27.13 @ 3:42 pm

Miami’s success this year in the ACC, has me encourages that we will be able to compete in the Top Tier. They are 13-1 having just suffered their first loss.

Also Virginia with Tony Bennett as coach, as brought his low scoring defensive style with him from Washington State and UVA has become a force in the ACC as well. And Bennett’s style is similar to Dixon’s style. Much as I hope someday it would evolve, it probably won’t. It is what it is.

Comment by EMel 02.27.13 @ 3:45 pm

I question who is crazy. Like it or not, in BE play, it has been Woodall who has been the most consistent .. by far.

Adams hsa the most upside but that is something we cannot depend on until next year.

Comment by wbb 02.27.13 @ 3:46 pm

Of course North Carolina is having a rare off year for them. Having lost 4 or 5 players (underclassmen) to the NBA last year.

They are certainly not up to snuff this year.

And as mentioned above, it is not just UNC & Duke, now Miami and UVA are going to be forces as they both have excellent coaches. As does NC STATE & Florida State and both usually recruit better players than PITT. And Clemson, Georgia Tech & Wake Forest have all had historical success either on par or better than us as well. Given the right coach, they can become major factors in the ACC as well. Same thing with BC.

And then L-Ville and ND are coming the following year. This is going to be one hell of a league.

Comment by EMel 02.27.13 @ 3:53 pm

You read it in the Post Gazette today via Smizik, just didnt know when the Big 12 travel whine would rear it’s ugly head as the reason why Huggins and Bball are in the toilet! Do not ever consider playing them home/home basketball series Panthers!Let them exhaust and rot in the midwest counting frequent flyer miles. Gives them more time to have Huggins regail the team with his freakin Bearcat stories! God I hope Zanna does something tonight for spirits efforts on this blog. He gotta be worn out trying to defend Zanna! Let’s go Talib! UPone

Comment by UPone 02.27.13 @ 5:09 pm

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