December 1, 2013

Tested By Duquesne

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 8:03 pm

Got my wish about a challenge from Duquesne yesterday. They played exceptionally well against Pitt. Better than the final score would indicate.

Pitt came out and blitzed the Stage Magicians in the first few minutes, and it looked like another blowout in the making. Instead Duquesne came back on Pitt, while Pitt found out early how bad they were going to be in their outside shooting.

Ultimately, Pitt was just better and deeper. Pitt may have had a miserable outside shooting game, while Duquesne was at one point an ungodly 7-9 on 3s. Pitt, however, is able to score from more than outside the arc. Duquesne was only 11-32 anywhere from inside the 3-point line, and their frontcourt couldn’t hit a free throw to save their life (Soko, McCoy and Lewis were a dismal 12-27 on FTs).

Pitt got a needed wake-up game after being so sharp and destroying Stanford and Texas Tech. They didn’t have their outside shooting to make it easy against an overmatched team. They had to work on getting it inside. Whether by passing or penetrating. They had to play defense as Duquesne was working it inside well — just couldn’t finish or hit FTs.

“This is the kind of game we expected,” Dixon said. “We knew it would be hard fought, emotional, two teams getting after it. We got off to a pretty good lead to start the game, which is something we have done, but then they made their run and we didn’t handle it as well.

“But we got back to doing what we do, we outrebounded them by a good margin, took care of the ball, but they made some shots. We wanted to drive the ball, we wanted to get in the lane, we didn’t shoot it great from 3, but we got penetration and got in the lane.”

Pitt led by only four points, 39-35, at halftime and trailed in the second half for the first time this season at 44-41 before making a 15-1 run over a five-minute span that enabled the Panthers to seize control.

Guarantee that Jamie Dixon was quietly quite happy that Pitt got pushed. It gives him every reason to get on the team. Especially in defending penetration.

Cam Wright led Pitt in this game. Continuing a complete reinventing of himself and befuddling many Pitt fans who thought (hoped) he would transfer after last year. His line for the game: 20 points (9-17), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks and 3 turnovers in 36 minutes.

Wright never had scored more than 13 points, but he has become more aggressive.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a different player,” said Wright, who mostly credited his teammates. “I think they’re looking for me to shoot sometimes, so when you’re wide open, you’ve got to shoot.”

Key was his layup and free throw with 14:13 left, which stretched a four-point gap into a 51-44 lead. The 6-foot-4 guard made 9 of 17 shots with two 3-pointers.

“He has much more of an aggressive offensive mindset,” said Duquesne sophomore Jeremiah Jones, who also faced Wright in the summer. “He was making some shots today. His mid-range shot has improved. He was attacking the basket well. He played a good game.”

Wright was always a higher ceiling player than we care to remember. He was a high 3-star recruit who initially committed to Ohio State. Even after redshirting, he was good enough to be given a chance at trying out for the USA U19 squad. It has just taken time for it all to come together. Imagine that? A player developing over time rather than being a star or bust right away.

Lamar Patterson was his efficient self. Talib Zanna is never going to be a defensive force, but he was solid on offense once more.

James Robinson continues to struggle with his shot. I know Robinson is a hell of a passing point guard, but he has to be better shooting. Even if he hits some key shots late, if he makes some of the easier and open ones earlier it’s a moot point. Last year as Big East play went on we saw teams playing further and further off of Robinson because he was a threat to pass not shoot. They were staying inside to guard the bigs or clog the lanes to further stagnate the offense by forcing Pitt to keep the ball along the perimeter.

So far, his shooting percentages are not very different. He is getting to the free throw line more, but he’s finishing less. I think he can be an amazing point guard (he’s already a very good one), but he has to be better at finishing. Not simply jumpers. He can get to the basket. Even Coach Dixon acknowledged before the season started that Robinson needs to be a better shooter for this team.

The ACC-Big 10 Challenge happens Tuesday night.

UNC got beat by UAB today.

Turns out that Penn St has a pretty decent BB team; it just may be competitive on Tuesday. I think its good that Duquesne gave Pitt a little wake-up call, just to bring it down to earth after looking so good in Brooklyn

Comment by wbb 12.01.13 @ 8:29 pm

wbb- you took the words right out of my mouth…psu did look a lot better than usual..we should be fine though…I see us playing a lot of zone tue night….psu low post game is very weak..look for zanna and young to have big games

Comment by Keith 12.01.13 @ 9:45 pm

and….I bought a single ticket for the duke game on jan 27th and the cheapest tix I could find was $269 with service fees and shit….geeeesh!!…but I had to see duke’s first visit to the pete

Comment by Keith 12.01.13 @ 9:47 pm

FWIW, I saw the first game at the Pete and can’t even remember who it was against … saw the first BE game at the Pete and can’t remember who it was against. But remember the first loss at the Pete, 2nd season vs Syracuse in OT.

Comment by wbb 12.01.13 @ 9:57 pm

I expect to see Pitt ranked on Monday. If we’re not, it won’t bother me — I’d rather see our team underrated and playing with a chip on the shoulder than overrated and playing with big heads.

That being said, Pitt is top-5 in Pomeroy, Sagarin, and Massey ratings.

Comment by Four One Two 12.01.13 @ 10:00 pm

still way too early for any reliable ratings

Comment by wbb 12.01.13 @ 10:09 pm

I agree wbb; as KenPom would say, that data is not yet well-connected. And really, top-5 is unrealistic for our team this early in the year when we remain untested. All I’m saying is that a pollster who ignores statistics is not doing his job well.

Comment by Four One Two 12.01.13 @ 10:34 pm

According to the ESPN stats, Robinson logged 33 minutes and Newkirk 11 against Duquesne. Were they on the court together?

link to

Comment by Howard 12.01.13 @ 11:21 pm

Howard, I’d have to say that they had to be on the court together since their combined minutes were greater than 40 and there was no OT.

Comment by panther94 12.01.13 @ 11:44 pm

Probably not looking for a mathematical conclusion, though, were you?

Comment by panther94 12.01.13 @ 11:58 pm

Newkirk played a short while at the 2. As I recall, nothing memorable happened …. but I don’t believe that was the only time that Newkirk played the 2 this year

Comment by wbb 12.02.13 @ 7:35 am

Because of foul issues they played together for a few minutes. They have played some together in the other games also. Newkirk looks like a good shooter. It will also be interesting to see him progress.

Comment by JP 12.02.13 @ 8:43 am

Just amazed at Wright’s transformation. It is awesome to see, and yet another reason how I could not and would not want to be a Kentucky fan. They no longer get to see players develop. They get them for one year, maybe two – yeah, they get championships and deep NCAA runs, but I honestly would rather support a college basketball program, not simply a one-year stop over for guys biding their time before heading to the NBA.

I also got to watch some of the second half of the Okla St. v Memphis game, and Okla St. was just terrible to watch. I know that they have some serious talent, but they do not play like a team at all. Admittedly, they were not playing well, but, again, when I compare how this particular Pitt team works the ball, runs the offense, and gets (mostly) good shots, I find Pitt to be much more impressive. Okla St. will have a good season because they have so much talent, but I don’t see them winning the whole thing.

Comment by Carmen 12.02.13 @ 9:12 am

This will be our 2nd nothing to win game in a row. These teams get to make their season if they can beat us. The ACC challenge allows us no choice with Penn St. WE are stupid to schedule Duquesne, and we are such chumps we agree to meet them on a neutral court. All this for nostalgia? I remember when the City Game was relevant, and enjoyed the rivalry but enough is enough. If and when they start to field a competitive top 100 basketball team great but until then where is the upside for Pitt?

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.02.13 @ 9:57 am

@Keith, good for you!!!

@Spirit. Actually, you’re quite right. Who are we doing this for??? For some sense of nostalgia that’s been gone for over 20 some years.

To placate a few people here and there?? I’d rather schedule a game against Mich. St., Kansas, or Florida.

Comment by Dan 12.02.13 @ 10:30 am

@spirit–don’t sleep on Penn State–They are a significantly stronger team than Duquesne–and may have a legit shot at making the NCAA tourney team this season. They have a very similar roster to that of Stanford with several 6-10 plus guys that may give us serious trouble inside (and are slightly more highly ranked than Stanford by Sagarin). They will be the best team we have played this season so far. Expect the opening betting line to be around 12-14 mainly thanks to an ~4+ point home court advantage. We are at most 9-10 points better on paper if the game was played on a neutral site.

We should win but it is just as likely to be a nail biter as to be a laugher—especially if we don’t turn them over frequently to score in transition and/or we don’t shoot the 3-ball well.

Comment by pitt1972 12.02.13 @ 10:43 am

Pitt 72, The report I get on Penn St is that they have guards who can play and score but they don’t have the inside presence to compete. I am by no means taking Penn State for granted as they have everything to gain by playing this game. As an example when I read the accounts of the Duquesne game in Sundays Trib the writers seemed disappointed the Dukes didn’t win. It was almost like Pitt should have apologized for beating them. This game is the same garbage with us having nothing to gain. If Penn St.even plays well for 20 minutes that will be the whole story. I would rather play Ohio St or Michigan where they would pack the seats and everyone could have something to gain by winning.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.02.13 @ 10:56 am

The City Game is a nostalgia trip, but we also used to reliably play Bobby Mo once a year in non con, and they’ve been a much better team in recent years than the Dukes. It’s been 13 straight for Pitt, with only 2009 in OT x2 as a real contest.

Comment by Ghost of Hornman 12.02.13 @ 11:42 am

spirit, with the exception of Texas Tech and Stanford every game we played so far has been a ‘nothing to win’ one as we were highly favored and should have beaten them. Thus, why not Duquesne and Bobby Mo among the list of flunkies on our schedule?

PSU wasn’t scheduled by Pitt

Comment by wbb 12.02.13 @ 11:59 am

@WBB, You are correct and we played those games at our invitation to the Pete to generate revenue. The Duquesne game however is played on a neutral court sacrificing a home game. If we are going to sacrifice a home game let’s play someone that allows us an opportunity. If Duquesne wants to play us they need to come to the Pete like the rest of the patsies. We had no choice in the Penn St game because it was the ACC who dictated it but the Duquesne game has outlived it’s neutral court privilege IMO. I am all for playing Bobby Mo also at the Pete in fact many times they are more competitive than the Dukes.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.02.13 @ 12:26 pm

Cam Wright has made the biggest improvement since Gary McGhee.

Comment by alcofan 12.02.13 @ 12:58 pm

I agree, if you’re gonna have flunkies, might as well have those two.

However, that’s a shame.

You know, with the 20 million a year from the ACC, can’t we at least have one friggin’ home and home with someone decent???

Comment by Dan 12.02.13 @ 1:15 pm

@spirit, just saw your point about at the Consol.


Comment by Dan 12.02.13 @ 1:19 pm

@Dan, That is my entire point, we the season ticket holders deserve at least 1 real game in the Non/con every other year and dumping the neutral court City Game is the easiest path to that happening. We don’t owe the nobody Dukes a neutral court game when they only win once every 20 years. It would be nice if we could afford the luxury of helping them out but losing a game like WVU or UConn isn’t fair to us.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.02.13 @ 1:24 pm

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