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November 18, 2013

Blowing By The Bisons

Filed under: Basketball,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 8:37 am

When talking about the 2-3 zone last week, I mentioned how disastrous it was when Pitt attempted to use it back in 2011-12. That was nothing compared to what Pitt did to Howard’s attempt at using the 2-3 zone.

Howard coach Kevin Nickelberry blamed it on the Bisons (2-3) packing the paint in a zone defense, allowing Pitt to penetrate and kick out to shooters.

“I told them the bigs can’t beat us, the guards have to beat us — and the guards killed us,” Nickelberry said. “We tried to cut off what we thought was the head of the dragon.”

Howard lacks big guards, so packing inside on a zone was practically begging Pitt to shoot over the zone. And that is what Pitt did. Getting wide-open looks from outside.

A reasonable person would say it wasn’t an unsound strategy upon reviewing Pitt’s 0-11 3-point shooting in the prior game. But even the biggest optimist on Howard’s staff would have to concede that it wasn’t a shooting performance that would be repeated. Instead Pitt decimated Howard from outside. Shooting 6-8 on 3s in the first half.

All part of an incredible first half shooting performance.

Cameron Wright was in disbelief upon hearing Pitt shot 81 percent from the field in the first half against Howard in the Progressive Legends Classic.

“Nobody told us that,” Wright said. “I feel like you guys make those statistics up sometimes. We had a great first half, I guess.”

Try the best in school history.

After setting a school record by missing all 11 3-point attempts against Fresno State, the Panthers broke another by sinking 17 of 21 shots in the first half of an 84-52 victory over Howard on Sunday at Petersen Events Center. The previous mark was 80.8 percent (21 of 26) against George Washington on Jan. 9, 1980.

Most of the time, we’d be thrilled with that kind of shooting percentage from the free throw line. Not all over the court.

Lamar Patterson was exceptionally hot, leading the team with 20 points (7-11 overall, 4-5 on 3s).

Coach Jamie Dixon said that while the Panthers’ shooting in the first half and the rest of the game was solid, he was more impressed with their shot selection and offensive execution.

“I don’t know that it was shooting, but execution, decision-making, passing,” Dixon said. “Sometimes it is guys making shots, but this was running good offense. We had 13 assists at half and that, to me, is the biggest indicator. We were getting layups.

“We were getting some penetration, inside touches and kicking out, and those are the 3-pointers that you make. Last game, we were 0 for 11 from the 3-point line and everybody asked about it. Today, we were 8 for 15 from the 3-point line and of course, nobody asks.”

The Panthers were also good from the free-throw line, shooting 18 for 23 (78 percent).

Really, that was the only concentration in the stat sheet. Ten players played at least 10 minutes. Among those ten, only Randall scored zero points. The other eight players scored from 4 to 11 points. Rebounds were similarly spread out on the team. There was a lot of sharing going on.

Not too much to be said about a blowout like this. I will say that Howard has a keeper in guard James Daniel. Good shooter.

For Pitt, the only negative was Josh Newkirk playing a little too fast. 5 turnovers in only 12 minutes is not going to get you extra minutes with any coach. And that is doubly so with Coach Dixon.

After that, it’s just nit-picking about the team. Pitt did what they were supposed to do against a very obviously overmatched team. They beat them down quickly and never let them get even a glimmer of hope.





We have become a basketball school. Here’s hoping for a very successful ACC run and a deep run into the NCAA tourney.

H2P

Comment by Pitt Fan In Atlanta 11.18.13 @ 8:58 am

I feel like we’ve been a basketball school for quite a while… we just have us silly fans who still see Pitt as a football school. It will probably help us in the long run if football ever takes a real hit from all the health issues surrounding the sport and it’s popularity diminishes.

Comment by Benzene 11.18.13 @ 9:24 am

We’re a basketball team in a city that doesn’t appreciate basketball. It’s too bad. The focus will continue to remain on a very mediocre football team. Oh well.

Comment by Don Walnut 11.18.13 @ 9:53 am

@Benzene, We are a basketball school and what’s wrong with that? Our kids are consistently ranked in the top 20,almost always make the Dance, graduate, and generally represent the University well. What I think stinks is that we have to play such a crappy home non/con schedule because the athletic department is too greedy with the dollars generated by the hoop team. We could have gotten a better opponent last night by cruising local playgrounds. I realize that the economics dictate 14 home games as things sit. We should lose the Duquesne game and drop one of the patsie games and schedule two home and away games annually against former Big East Rivals like UConn, WVU, Villanova or Georgetown. If that results in a loss of revenue so be it, get the money elsewhere. Our fans deserve to see an occasional legit opponent in the non/con without going to New York to see the game. The City game is a joke and we don’t owe Duquesne anything, why give up better rivalries like the hoopies to cater to a has been program and an unfairly restrictive athletic budget.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 10:00 am

I guess that sellout streak at the Pete – how many dozens of games was it again? – shows that basketball just can’t succeed in this football city. Guess what, you don’t win, support drops very fast in Pittsburgh for any sports team. The basketball team was a step down from its previous high level and support inevitably dropped. Win big again and that will come back very fast, that’s how Pittsburgh sports fans are.

And the football program will never be perceived as anything but mediocre even if it wins with fans like this… Pitt fans are some of the worst fans in the nation, it’s very sad but true.

Comment by deepelemblues 11.18.13 @ 10:08 am

Deepelemblues, Get you facts straight, Pitt Basketball has sold out every regular season home game ever held at the Pete. There has been no drop off in support for Pitt Hoops. You are sadly misinformed.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 10:18 am

As I saw it there were some plus factors from the Howard game besides the hot 1st half shooting. Patterson took control early on and picked his spots well. Wright and D. Johnson seem to progress with every game so far. I hope we get to see Young for all four years, the sky is the limit. The team is steadily moving in the right direction. They must continue to rebound by committee if they are going to excel in the ACC. The jury should still be out on Jones. He is only a freshman and made a step forward yesterday, IMO.

On the other hand, it was noteworthy that Zanna did not impress. Both he and Randall brought the ball down to guard level on more than one occasion. I would have liked to see them get the ball into Randall more and see what he can do. Newkirk had a horrible day. I wonder if there are plans of him moving over to #2 in the future. He has a decent stroke and it can be improved. He also would be able to use his quickness to go to the hoop from there. Right now his ball handling looks subject at this level for the point position.

Comment by Virgil 11.18.13 @ 11:09 am

FWIW, I saw empty seats when I saw highlights yesterday of Belmont beating UNC at the DeanDome

Comment by wbb 11.18.13 @ 12:01 pm

Newkirk appears to be following in the footsteps of Wannamaker and Woodall .. both played too fast and were turnover machines early in their Pitt careers

Comment by wbb 11.18.13 @ 12:05 pm

@Virgil, This team doesn’t seem to suffer from the turtle on it’s back syndrome last years team showed so often. A friend of mine remarked that maybe the upperclassmen resented Adams last year. They play well together and move the ball well. They look like they will be a lot easier team for Dixon to coach. Efficient offense but not lethargic. Good defense, rebounding and unselfish quality shot selection. Wright seems to have a great fix on things and Patterson is looking like a mature senior. Zanna looks like he fits at center better than forward and seems capable of replacing Adams. Robinson looks like the sophomore version of a great freshman we saw last season. A little stronger, a little more experienced, and a little more confident. The Freshman forwards Young and Artis don’t look like freshman at all. They look like they are ready to excel now. Durand continues to flash athleticism but still seems a little out of control. Newkirk looks like a true freshman, he is lost with what to do with his feet on defense and is very loose with the ball on offense. He is also quicker than anything we have seen at guard in the Dixon era. It is only a matter of time until this kid harnesses his potential then look out. He is a year or two away but will be worth the wait. Randall looks to be a better than average backup center. He also looks like he could start next year and be a McGhee type producer. Jones will have to step it up to contribute as a redshirt freshman but he has nice size. With Jeter, Mostella, and Wilson in the pipeline I think the concern expressed last summer was misplaced and we have every reason to think this could have a good to very good season. With the quality of guards at Pitt and those developing and coming we have reason to be very excited. A few more big bodies to go with Young and Artis and things could get out of hand.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 12:26 pm

North Carolina with Parade and McDonalds All Americans all over the roster gets beat by Belmont at home. If they don’t get their backcourt off probation soon this could be a very long year for the Tarheels.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 1:07 pm

@Virgil, I agree with your assessment. Dixon is bringing the new players along with the help of veterans who teach playing defense and offense as a team.

The chemistry of this year’s team seems to be excellent. I loved watching Wright and Patterson during yesterday’s postgame interview, available here:

link to pittsburghpanthers.com

Comment by Howard 11.18.13 @ 1:17 pm

I was at the game yesterday and it was a fun 1st half watching all the shots fall. Unfortunately, it was equally as frustrating watching the bigs trying to pound it inside and try and put in an offensive rebound. Lots of shoes squeaking but no baskets going in. I will be afraid in any game where the opposition has some serious bigs. Pitt might be able to defend with numbers but scoring could be hampered if the shooters are off.

Comment by Pendlum 11.18.13 @ 1:21 pm

@pendulum, Zanna was on the bench most of the night with 2 early fouls which is not typical of him. Patterson and Young led the team in scoring. I didn’t see any problem with our frontline last night. Defensively they were impressive. Through 3 games we are shooting 75% from the foul line. There is a lot to like about this group so far. We should get a better look in NY next week.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 1:37 pm

I hate when people say “Pitt is now a basketball school” as though that is a degrogatory term. What are schools that have both crappy basketball and football teams? Academic schools? Nothing schools?

It wasn’t all that long ago that Pitt was one of a handful of schools that had both their football team AND basketball team in the Top 25 in the same year. Let’s hope that happens again in the not so distant future. Being a “basketball school” already is a good start…

Comment by JCE 11.18.13 @ 1:59 pm

I realize that all our opinions are based on the caliber of our opponents so far, but we will be getting tougher competition in the near future. There are question marks for sure, but I like the chemistry. And I have the same concerns as you Pendlum when we face a team with superior “bigs”.

I also forgot to mention how pleasantly surprised I am with Artis. I really didn’t expect much but he seems to be improving with every minute of experience he gets. He, like Young does not seem in awe of the situation as freshmen. It should be interesting as to how the rotation finally plays out and where he fits once we get into league play.

Comment by Virgil 11.18.13 @ 2:07 pm

How many college teams have outstanding big guys anymore? Almost every talented player 6″10′ and over goes pro after their freshmen year. Big guys come in two flavors: young/raw and old/suck. Pitt has enough length that rebounding won’t be an issue this year.

Comment by Denny 11.18.13 @ 2:26 pm

Denny, well said.

Comment by gc 11.18.13 @ 2:50 pm

Hopefully this team won’t be ‘on’ one game and ‘off’ the other as far as outside shooting.
As what happened with Fresno and then Howard.

Because while that might get us thru the non-con unscaithed or close to unscaithed, it will lead to being inconsistent on the road in the ACC.

Also Fresno was a better team than Howard and they had longer guards so there’s that too. Howard after all is a MEAC team so games against them should be 30+ point routs. If they aren’t, it will most likely mean a 2011-2012 type season.

It was a rout, but we got little production from the 5 spot. Z and R didn’t score much, optimally would like to see Z score at least 10 points a game and R at least 5.

Also would have liked to seen Lamar be left in the game longer, as he should have been game high scorer. As soon as the Bison player overtook him, their coach took him out of the game.

We need that one ‘go to’ guy. Lamar getting 30 would have worked wonders for the kid’s confidence.

Comment by EMel 11.18.13 @ 3:07 pm

@ Denny, I think most teams have outstanding “big guys” at this level. What doesn’t exist much anymore is a dominant big man. Zanna and Randall can hold there own defensively against 9 out of 10 big men they will face. The problem is 9 out of 10 they face can hold them in check as well. Todays game is decided by bigs shooting 20 foot shots and 6 footers making 3 point plays in the paint. The old aircraft carrier style of play isn’t stylish now but that isn’t because the big guys suck, it’s because of the 3 point line and modern defenses. There are more talented “big Guys” than ever.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 3:31 pm

Emel, I was at the game and the only reason Zanna didn’t have a double double is we didn’t need it. He picked up a couple fouls being clumsy early. By the time he got back involved we were up 25 and Dixon would have looked like abully pounding inside. Patterson could have scored 50 but that isn’t like Dixon to humiliate teams. What mattered is while we were building our lead early we efficiently found good shot choices, played great D, and played excellent fundamental basketball. Pitt really seemed focused and came out and played serious ball for the first 12 minutes. After that it wasn’t really a contest and nothing of ant positive consequence was going to be accomplished. It was hard to argue shot selection in the first half when we shot 81% and after that it wasn’t really a game. The one thing I have noticed is the rule interpretations haven’t seemed to effect our D at all and have seemed to help our offensive penetration. We are also shooting 75% from the foul line. These are all very positive indications.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 3:57 pm

Ok – I stand corrected, UNC IS NOT MEDIOCRE, without Hairston and McDonald, THEY SUCK.

Pitt doesn’t have that “go to” guy. No one player on the team is that indispensable that without him Pitt would lose to Belmont and almost lose to Holy Cross.

The worst thing Pitt could do would be to try to force a good player (not great) into that role. Lamar is a good player, but he is not a go to guy. He is not an alpha dog. Pitt is going to have to have a “go to guy by committee”. There are a lot of guys who can step up and carry the load offensively, on a game by game basis, depending on the matchup and who has a hot hand.

Next year at this time, Young very could develop into that role, but he’s not there yet.

Previous Pitt teams were too dependent on one decent player, Woodall last year and Gibbs the year before. That didn’t work out too well.

Comment by Boubabcar Aw 11.18.13 @ 5:22 pm

Boubabcar, Robinson, Patterson, and Wright all seem to be working well together to pop someone open. This offense has really been finding good looks and they aren’t sloppy with the ball. I think the scoring will be very balanced and even when the competition level grows next week I think they are going to be successful. They don’t look anything like last years stagnant confusion. I think the new rules are helping us some too. Chemistry is an overused term, but we seem to have found some. I really like our starting 5. We need to develop some depth in the non/con. Right now Artis and Johnson are looking 6/7 and Randall 8. Our guards are going to have to play a lot of minutes.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 5:46 pm

If we have to score next week at the end of the game, I am fine with whoever gets the first good look shooting the ball. I would give Robinson the ball, run the O and I would be pretty confident we would score.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 5:58 pm

Wright has been running from circle right extended thru the key off a crossing screen to open up a 8′ to 10′ jumper. He did it a couple times last night. If we needed a 3 Patterson has done well at finding Young in the corner after penetrating. Robinson can try to penetrate because the officials are calling all the fouls with the new rules. He creates any contact and he is 80% at the line. Same goes for Patterson penetrations. As long as Zanna isn’t double teamed he is a high percentage shot, but I prefer others. We have a lot of options and I think that is what makes it hard to defend us. The new rules have made it much easier to penetrate as well. Wright, Robinson, and Patterson are all smart good ball handlers that are unselfish and experienced. Young has the tools to score the ball and Zanna is big. Nobody here is headed for the All American team but together these 5 make a pretty solid unit. They should win a lot of games. I think we are underated at 6th in the ACC and barring injury we will definitely play in the NCAA’s this year.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 6:23 pm

Those expressing concern about Pitt’s chances against bigger teams we will face in the future might want to tune in Monday and Tuesday in New York. Texas Tech has a seven footer and Stanford has a senior dominated line up with all kinds of size. These will be among the biggest teams we will face this year.

Comment by spiritofsection22 11.18.13 @ 7:40 pm

Rebounding is less about length, than it is about strength and positioning. Let’s take that call from “Send it in Jerome!” True big men are hard to come by, but I am on Santa’s website ordering us a shot blocker, please. Respectfully disagree with ditching the City Game SOS22, but us old guys still harken back to the days of “Stormin Norm Nixon”! Like Lamar to score a few points because he gets frustrated if he doesn’t but I want the assists Lamar, that’s how you make Pitt better! Young, Newkirk, Artis, Jones, the kids are our building blocks for our initial ACC Championship! Someone calling Pitt a B-ball school does not offend me. In the days of the Eastern 8, never would have dreamed of the last decade in Pitt’s men’s basketball! H2P! UPone

Comment by UPone 11.18.13 @ 9:19 pm

Setting this record for FG%… is not a good thing.

Last year, we set a record against DePaul at home… what was it… biggest margin of victory ever for a BE team in a BE conference game.

Then, when we played DePaul on the road… we set another record… highest FG% ever in a BE game.

But, DePaul, was NOT a very good team… and then how did we end up… losing to Cuse in the BE Tourney and then a hideous performance in the big dance.

So, setting records against poor teams… is the mark of a team that does not come out well when the going gets tougher.

And Patterson led the way on this one.

Comment by Zaratoughda 11.19.13 @ 10:28 pm

“So, setting records against poor teams… is the mark of a team that does not come out well when the going gets tougher.”

I fail to see any logic in the above statement??

Comment by Classof69 11.20.13 @ 7:33 am

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