That was what they did.
“They manhandled us,” [YSU Coach Jerry] Slocum said, which is a great way to describe what the bigger, more physical Panthers did to the Penguins in the paint, and it also was the biggest reason the Panthers won the game.
What does “manhandling” look like in terms of one basketball team to another?
Start with the fact that the Panthers outrebounded the Penguins, 47-21, the largest rebounding margin they have posted in a game this season.
Pitt had 20 offensive rebounds, one fewer than the Penguins had total, and Pitt center Talib Zanna had almost as many defensive rebounds (11) as the Penguins had as a team (14).
The rebounding edge led to the Panthers rolling up impressive numbers of points in the paint (48) and second-chance points (20).
Offensively Pitt didn’t show much rust from a week off for finals.
Defensively, however, well there was a pesky guard that had his way with Pitt.
The numbers that Dixon can’t get out of his head are these: 73 and 28.
Youngstown State (7-5) scored more than any other Pitt opponent this season, even while losing its fourth game in the past five.
YSU guard Kendrick Perry led all scorers with 28 points, a season-best by an opposing player against the Panthers. Penn State’s Tim Frazier scored 27 against the Panthers on Dec. 3. Plus, Stanford’s Dwight Powell and Loyola Marymount’s Anthony Ireland each had 20 against Pitt in the past month.
“I don’t like a guy scoring 28 points,” Dixon said. “I don’t care how many points we were up by (26 midway through the second half).”
Dixon played four freshmen at the same time for short stretches, but that was no excuse.
“We have to get better defensively with our young guys,” Dixon said. “You probably heard that one before, and I’ll say it again. We have made that very clear to them. … There are reasons why we are under the radar.”
Quite the direct message from Dixon.
You want to worry about not being ranked in the top-25? Then play a complete game like a team that should be ranked. Regardless of the opponent.
As for the guards who have torched Pitt. Of course it is a concern. Simply because once ACC play begins there will be opponents with more than one weapon. That said, the one other thing all those guards had in common? All of them seniors. Smart, experienced players who understand the rules and know how to attack the basket — even against a zone.
Plus, this was a game where Dixon went deep on the bench to give everyone minutes. Ten players got at least 10 minutes of playing time. Lots of opportunities and chances for plenty of confusion on the defense.
Dixon will be seeking an effective mix of offense and defense from his new players, including freshmen Jamel Artis, Josh Newkirk and Young and junior transfer Randall.
“Offensively, they are hard to guard,” Dixon said. “You can just look at the numbers. Defensively, they have to get better.
“It’s to be expected, but we don’t have time to wait. They are playing significant minutes on a team that is trying to do some things.”
So… not a rebuilding year, then?
Not too much to say on this game. The veterans were solid, and had a relatively early and easy day. Only Durand Johnson had a bit of shooting struggles. 0-4 on 3s. 1-7 overall. He did have 4 assists, though, as he is continuing to be more willing to share the ball.
Pitt gave good minutes to Newkirk and Artis. Newkirk is really starting to impress me. He is much more of a scoring point guard, giving this team a very different look when he has the reins instead of James Robinson. It should provide a good shake-up to opposing teams that gameplan too much for Robinson and play off the point guard.
As for Artis, he is making progress, but as a frontcourt player it is a little slower. He is struggling on the defensive end to be in the right place. He’s showing more patience on the offensive end. Not trying to show his worth the moment he hits the court.
In other notes, per Paul Zeise’s blog:
Another player who people have asked about is Joe Uchebo, who is in the game notes listed as “he has been cleared to play”, which begs the question “why isn’t he?” Well, it is simple — he had a major, major knee injury and surgeries to repair it. It is now healthy enough to where he can go full speed ahead. But he is still, according to Dixon, just not really mentally ready to trust it and that is holding him back. It is going to be a process with him, it just is. I expect he will probably be ready to go and coaches would like to get him in a little bit against a couple of the late December nonconference opponents, but we will see. It is one of those things that will be a work in progress and the hope is with each passing day, he trusts it more and gets a little more confidence in it and sooner rather than later he is back in the mix.
Also, best to Aron Nwanko and his family. Hope his mom gets well soon.