December 18, 2013

What Happened at MSG?

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 1:49 pm

If I had to lay odds, I would have had Ron Cook as the prohibitive favorite among Pittsburgh newspaper columnists penning the “Pitt’s weak schedule is the reason for the loss” column this morning. But, no. Dejan Kovacevic grabs the superficial brass ring. Oh, he’s not coming and saying it’s the reason. He’s just saying the question is still out there.

You’d better believe the topic came up again, as it’ll continue to do for as long as it goes unaddressed. In this context, the question was whether or not Pitt might have been better prepared for Cincinnati with an out-of-conference schedule ranked better than 167th in the country.

You may remember Kovacevic’s previous “question” of whether this Pitt team is better without Steven Adams.

Time for a personal aside. I hate. HATE the “I’m just asking questions” pieces. Regardless of the medium. At the end of the day, it is nothing but pot-stirring crap that someone doesn’t have the actual courage to stand behind. They aren’t saying they believe it (wink, wink). They are just acknowledging the question is out there and opening it up to others to discuss. That way they don’t have to back up what they are saying. They don’t have to take one side.

They can just toss it out there. Repeat it. Let others pick it up, and see what happens. Skew the debate without having to get your hands dirty.

Skip Bayless may be a gasbag troll best ignored, but at least you know what side he is taking on something (usually the side that gets the most controversy and attention). When a media person can’t even reach that level, it should be a concern.

/end rant

Any positives from the game?

“We’re disappointed, to put it mildly, and did not deserve to win,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We didn’t play well the whole game. Give them credit.”

I’ll take that as a no.

As for the game itself. Let’s hit the standards.

But an unusual thing happened in this battle of toughness, heart and will — Pitt lost in all three categories and, as a result, lost the game, 44-43, in the Jimmy V Classic.

“We didn’t handle their physicality well at all, and that is disappointing for us,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. “They were more physical than we were, they were more aggressive than we were and they were physical at the same time.”

Pitt senior forward Lamar Patterson added, “they were more physical today, and we knew that’s how they would play but we didn’t throw punches back like we are supposed to. Numbers don’t lie.”

The biggest issue for Pitt was the number of offensive rebounds it surrendered. Including the game winning putback. Cinci  grabbed 16 offensive rebounds while Pitt only got 8 second chances on offense.

The ESPN crew noted it during the game, and it was strange. Pitt was getting out of position for offensive rebounds because several players would all go for blocks on drives or shots inside. They didn’t have position, became off-balanced and left themselves exposed to Cinci players getting to the ball first.

Then there were the freethrows. Up until the final couple minutes of the game, they were the thing that had Pitt in a position to at least escape with the win. Zanna went 2-4 from the line and then the brutal misses by Lamar Patterson with 22 seconds left.

Patterson, who was 6 for 7 from the foul line before his two key misses, said that, as the team leader, he should have knocked down the two free throws in order to give the Panthers a wider margin.

“I feel like I lost the game for us,” Patterson said. “Not only missing one, but both, I need to make them, I’ll take that one on the chin for the team, it is on me.”

Wright quickly stepped in and said, “it wasn’t Lamar’s fault. You don’t lose the game on two free throws. There are a lot of possessions. It was a team loss, and you have to give a lot of credit to Cincinnati.”

Well, sort of. This was such a slow, grinding game. Pitt only had 47 possessions. I don’t know, maybe scoring is really up because the old Big East is no more and that style of play is now more diffused. I suppose not.

The Cinci side rejoiced at simply stopping their two-game slide.

“Our guys were so upset about what happened Saturday night we had guys that couldn’t eat,” said UC coach Mick Cronin. “I was more of a psychologist than a coach the last couple of days.”

The players were feeling a lot better Tuesday night after they reclaimed their reputation for toughness against an unbeaten Pittsburgh team that also takes pride in standing its ground on the basketball court.

So what else stands out from this game that could be part of a broader theme? Well, the 3-point shooting has become a struggle. Over the course of the last five games, Pitt is shooting a touch over 20% from outside (13-64). That’s going to make things crowded inside as teams focus on preventing penetration and cut off passing lanes.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Durand Johnson is 3-18 (16.7%) on 3s in that stretch. It’s hard to miss J.J. Moore when Johnson has so seamlessly replaced him as the sixth man with ridiculous athletic talent who should be attacking the basket rather than launching so many 3s. Johnson is 9-14 from anywhere inside the arc in that same stretch.

It isn’t just Johnson struggling to shoot. Michael Young is a great young player. I will really enjoy watching him continue to get better. But right now he shows his inexperience on offense. Bringing and gathering the ball before going up for shots to get challenged most of the time. In the last five games, only one game had him score more points from the field than the free throw line. It is rightly noted that his free throw shooting is excellent. While an occasional game  where all the offense comes from the free throw line is a good offset, it shouldn’t be the norm. Especially for a front court player.

The only players who have continually hit double figures in scoring for this five game stretch are Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson. Cam Wright had his run snapped last night.

James Robinson does so much right on the court. And it should be noted that he is shooting better from inside the arc to this point in the season versus last year. But, his 3-point shooting is actually down from last year, and that is worrisome. We saw it last year in Big East play. Teams didn’t fear him shooting the ball. They played off him. Covering the passing lanes and staying back to prevent drives. Daring him to shoot.

@Jackagain – as long as we’re the first 9 seed to win it all, I still won’t care.

Comment by Pitt Dad 12.18.13 @ 11:48 pm

Pitt Dad…you do know that Pitt has never beaten a higher seed in the NCAA’s…ever.

Comment by Jackagain 12.18.13 @ 11:53 pm

Atlanta Panther you can bitch abought the BB game it will make you fell better to do so.
bookser was good news.
you have lost your mind have you not all this koolaid drinking you have even made DR Tom wonder what is wrong with you.
but i know you will find your self and start bitching once more lets hope it is soon.

Comment by Frankcan 12.19.13 @ 12:05 am

Stanford wins by 2 over previously unbeaten and #10 Uconn. Uconn was #13 in the RPI so that does nothing but make our big win over Stanford that much bigger.

Now the Pitt naysayers can kindly stop saying PITT has beaten no one of note. The twits.

Comment by Emel 12.19.13 @ 12:21 am

@Jackagain – yes, I know that. All that means is it hasn’t happened yet. I am a firm believer in the law of truly large numbers.

link to

Comment by Pitt Dad 12.19.13 @ 12:22 am

Um, Aaron Donald guys! Also Alex Bookser! D/O line paves the way H2P

Comment by Gordo 12.19.13 @ 12:45 am

We need a coach to make Bisnowaty, Johnson, Grimm and now Bookser, meaner, tough guys. I’m thinking our O-Line is being out tuffed by most of our opponents D-Lines.

Maybe an Urban warfare, Summer Camp in Compton or some such place would do them well.

Especially kids from Fox Chapel & Mt Lebo.

Just a thought ! lol

Comment by Emel 12.19.13 @ 12:51 am

Great news on Bookser! Dealing with a family issue and totally missed it, just getting my Pitt fix now. Next 2 days loom large. Let’s hope Coach Chryst and the boys can get the trifecta. Nicholson is huge. I think we’re in for good news tomorrow. Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Pap76 12.19.13 @ 2:33 am

Emel, I agree they are all soft and chubby and look Big 10 ish. I want tough, gritty, kids that could make it out of Compton with no cell, no money and a 2 hour limit. Tough and street tough. Not sure the streets of Mt. lebo and fox chapel have the same effect. Id love quick and fast guys vs big soft oline like the big 10 has. See where that got the big 10 on a national scale. Dont trll me about OSU. They suck and play no one. I will be very happy if Nicholson comes. Shai i am not concerned with at all. Not even Bookser. I want nicholson and quick footed olineman. I think Montae goes to the Ducks. Just a guess.

Comment by Upittbaseball 12.19.13 @ 7:07 am

Pitt’s offense is shaping up nicely. But we need to get bigger and faster on D. Picking up Montae is key. We’ll know soon enough today.

Comment by TX Panther 12.19.13 @ 7:19 am

Mount Lebo kids are tough enough. Small town, city streets, affluent suburbs…they all make good Pitt kids. Building good chemistry.

Comment by TX Panther 12.19.13 @ 7:23 am

This morning’s Post Gazette…

“You need three guys to offensive rebound, two to take the contact on and one to get the ball, and we did a great job of that all [game].”

Cincinnati Coach Mick Cronin



Does Jamie knows this? Does he teach this? Does he motivate his players to the point that they’re willing to put it into action?

The first answer is obvious. The other two not so much.

Something is amiss here.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.19.13 @ 7:26 am

free throws, period

Comment by paul shannon 12.19.13 @ 7:27 am


On the BB game:

Four missed free throws 2 each by Zanna and Patterson cost
Pitt the game on a bad night
Zanna better stay out of foul trouble; Randall provides little beyond a big body
Zanna was open most of the night but rarely got the ball down low
Pitt must rebound to win; team is offensively challenged
Durand Johnson needs to be more patient on his 3 point attempts
Robinson/Newkirk are talented PGs

Welcome to Bookster!

Comment by JR 12.19.13 @ 7:33 am

Close up of JD in opening seconds showed typical Dixon game time visage: face taught, jaw muscles tight, face ashen, teeth grinding, rewetting his lips. Then clock issues and game is momentarily suspended, another close up but now he’s relaxed; smiling, conversing. Game resumes, his body language and demeanor reverts back to anxious.

When Noll emerged from locker room into Tulane stadium his face said I’ve got the best team in the NFL and we’re going to kick the Vikings ass in every phase. At the NCAA’s in Dayton I watched closely as team came onto the floor and was shocked at Dixon’s body language; he looked too uptight, all of the same facial expressions described above except they were heightened. He had one of the best if not thee best team in college ball, he should have had that look that so many championship coaches have, that pissed off yet confident look that says we’re here to kick ass. And the foe was ETSU that day and we didn’t put it away till late.

I like Dixon but I think he’s got a case of anxiety disorder that gets in the way. Anxiety stops people from being brave and bravery is what’s missing from Dixon and his teams when the moment is big. A brave shooter hits those two foul shots, or the one that GB missed vs Butler. A brave coach grasps the moment and adjusts, and there Dixon fails more than he succeeds. When J Dixon was about to get trapped on right sideline by Villanova an instinctive coach calls immediate TO. If Fields had been handling the ball there we make the final four. When GB missed that foul shot Dixon should have known to pull them off the line for two obvious reasons. In NY the other night he should have gone brave and allow Newkirk the opportunity to drive to create passing lanes to Zanna who was open underneath. A few Zanna baskets and the perimeter shooter would have gotten a little bit more time to set.

The Blair teams should have been final four team, same with Brad’s team that lost to Butler. Put a brave guy like Izzo on the bench it would have happened. I think Dixon should work with a therapist on his anxiety disorder. The irony is that Dixon failed to be brave in a tournament named for a very brave man.

Comment by Old School Panther 12.19.13 @ 7:40 am

Maybe a doctor can prescribe some drugs and sex for Coach Dixon so he can relax.

Comment by TX Panther 12.19.13 @ 7:50 am

Dixon’s angst when the heat is on… has been pretty apparent for some time.

Maybe this has played a part in some of the more critical games. Not all, but some.

Can not be conducive to having the kind of clear thinking required for making smart decisions when they’re needed most.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.19.13 @ 7:52 am

Bottom line… this team is obviously pretty good when it coes to shooting… probably one of the better ones Jamie has had.

BUT… if they don’t get the REBOUNDING thing figured out… it’s going to be ugly.

As COLD as the team went against Cincy… had Pitt put forth a better effort in the rebounding department, it wouldn’t have mattered. Pitt would have WON going away.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.19.13 @ 8:00 am

Dixon needs an enema.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 12.19.13 @ 8:11 am

We got Bookser, so that great news plus Stanford beat UCONN; the same Stanford team PITT beat a couple of weeks ago. If Nicholson and McKenzie commit this week, it will be a very good Christmas.

Comment by Pittastic 12.19.13 @ 8:15 am

I’ll take Nicholson +1 (Kamara, Jennings or McKenizie) would make it a good recruiting class. Nicholson + 2 would make it great.

If Palermo still has some juice our O-Line is going to be scary good in 2-3 years. Bisno, Johnson, Grimm and Bookser. W. PA Road Graders.

Start the war chant…Montae-Montae.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 12.19.13 @ 8:25 am

Great get for Pitt. Keep building a great line.

Comment by notrocketscience 12.19.13 @ 8:34 am

Kamara looks to be a lock.

McKenzie likely a “no.”

But keep in mind CJ Leggett.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.19.13 @ 8:38 am

I don’t know about you, but all I get these days is junk mail anymore, then at 10:17 last night I get a great piece of news from the Mailman! Welcome aboard Alex!

With all the attention that I pay to recruiting, I find it strange that I’m enlightened for the first time that Bookser played both ways in HS, Although he was recruited as an offensive lineman for college.

This is fantastic news! That means that we have five OL recruits in this class too, just like last year. What once was a glaring weakness in the trenches for Pitt, Chryst is methodically building to be a primary asset going forward. Can you imagine an OL in a year or two with the likes of Dorian Johnson, Alex Bookser and Mike Grimm all as starters? And who knows out of the bunch of other good recruits that we now have who turns out to be the next Grimm, May, or Fralic in that bunch. $hit, this is the same team that needed to move an untested defensive lineman over to offense just to have enough warm bodies in the starting OL lineup who could contribute and play.

Fling all the criticisim that you want to at Coach Chryst, but during the last two years he has just been gojng about his business humming the famous Sinatra tune “My Way”.

Not saying that this is going to happen, but in this class both Mike Herndon and now Bookser have HS experience on the defensive side of the ball also. It is not out of the realm of possibility that we could either of these OL recruits moved over to shore up the depth issue on that side of the ball. I especially like that option for Herndon, since he played some LB at his HS and in his Junior highlight video looked dominant in that role. Pretty frickin quick on film for a kid carrying around over 300 lbs.

Now on to Nicholson and McKenzie. Even though I think that Shai might be taking into consideration that with Briggs, Ollison and our most recent RB recruit Chris James all on board in this class, “will there be room for playing time for me”, but if in fact, he is the competitor that I hope he is, he’ll be imagining how many yards that he’s going to be gaining behind the future OL that I’ve described above when he has earned his significant playing time in a year or two. BTW, Shell who? Come on down Shai and join the party!

I’m telling you guys, if we are lucky enough to reel in both Nicholson plus either Jennings/Kamara in this class and we discover that we have a promising QB developing in the group of Voytik, Freebeck or Bertke, then my friends, we are in for some dynamic Pitt offensive fireworks in the not so distant future IMO.

In closing, I sat on Santa’s lap this week during my recent mall visit and I gave him my Christmas wishlist. Montae Nicholson was #1 on it! Old St. Nick turned around and peeked in his sack sitting next to him then turned and whispered in my ear, “it’s in the bag”. Just hope that Chris Kringle wasn’t just BSing to get me out of there!

Hoping for more good recruiting news today. Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.19.13 @ 8:43 am


Don’t understand why none of the teams in the SEC have
Have offered Leggett???

Comment by JR 12.19.13 @ 8:46 am

Make no mistake about it… Pitt is going to RUN THE FOOTBALL next year.

Can’t wait.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.19.13 @ 8:51 am


Good point. Have no clue.

He does look pretty good on tape. Physical.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.19.13 @ 8:52 am

Doc – I hope you sat in Santa’s wife’s lap. LOL

Comment by Upittbaseball 12.19.13 @ 8:53 am

Back to the Dixon strung too tight issue, I think it has some merit. Maybe we should send him a couple of bottles of good scotch for the holidays.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 9:26 am

Pomeroy’s has us back up to 11th off of Stanford’s win over UConn who dropped to 29th ..ouch

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 9:33 am

Glad to see the Bookser news this morning and hope more is forthcoming.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 9:35 am

Speaking of recruits we have to be getting pretty close to hearing about the status of one Detrik Mostella. Maybe Santa will bring him.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 9:47 am

Nope, it was Santa himself, UPittbaseball, no worries, it was OK. I would have felt uncomfortable only if he had been wearing a penn state Santa cap, if you know what I mean?

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.19.13 @ 9:51 am

Dixon isn’t any more high strung or anxious than any other college basketball coach. He didn’t look or act tight at all the other night and I was pretty much right behind him. The team didn’t battle particularly hard in the first half, so maybe a little more intensity is in order.?.?.

There was a little confusion late but they had time outs to burn. It wasn’t an issue. Dixon can’t shoot free throws or get rebounds for them. Thought he coached a decent game. Made a switch to zone to get a few stops. When that didn’t work out, switched back to man. When subs started sucking, he put the starters back in and pretty much kept them in….It was just a shitty game.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 12.19.13 @ 9:52 am

Silverpanther, I enjoy your perspective and you express it well. It occurred to me this morning that the rebound numbers were a little scewed by the weird foul shot differential too. Obviously when rebounding an opponents missed foul shot you are at an advantage by position. That advantage was tilted their way a lot more than ours. It probably didn’t account for the total difference but I bet it covered half of it.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 10:04 am

WE missed 8 more fouls than them and they outrebounded us by 6. Taking away first shot 1 on 1 misses I bet it accounted for 3or 4 boards.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 10:10 am

Zeise with a second article on the loss today, talk about rubbing it in. Don’t remember seeing that before. What is up with that?

I guess they believe people would rather read about Pitt’s failures, but it sure seems like they have an agenda.

Comment by gc 12.19.13 @ 10:32 am

DR Tom herdon was recruited to play DT at 320 pounds he has the size. and the boy from conn was allso at 289 pounds they both have the size
even thou they were listed as OT and OG
on some sites they are listed as d line men.

Comment by Frankcan 12.19.13 @ 10:49 am

I am constantly in awe of the basketball knowledge by those posters on this site! What a terrific and detailed breakdown of the loss in NY.

I have said this often. Teams learn much more from a loss than from an easy win . There will be more learning to come

Comment by Dan 72 12.19.13 @ 10:56 am

gc, Why kick Pitt once when you can kick them twice. Cincinnati was more aggressive and was excellent on the offensive glass. They were coming off a game when they got humiliated on the glass by their rival Xavier. Pitt was lackluster in the 1st half and never seemed to recover from the Bearcat onslaught. Pitt had it’s worst game shooting from the field and at the line to compound the misery caused by the rebounding. Yet Pitt only lost by a point. If we had won would Mr Zeise and Dejan the mustard king be giving us all this ink? Of course not.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 11:02 am

JW, sorry but that isn’t how the final play went down. Patterson didn’t box out Rubles and left him open for the putback. Zanna was attempting to block the initial shot. Poor rebounding and overplayed defense…. the story of the night. The problem was they had last shot because if we had the ball and they couldn’t foul, I think we would have scored too. We’ll never know.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 11:13 am

Old School Panther, I had to laugh at your rant about Dixon being to tight and wishing he were more like Izzo. Izzo makes 5 million a year and his teams have underachieved ever since he got the contract. 3 years ago they were a preseason choice for the final four and they barely made the NCAA’s and lost the 1st game. When was the last time they won the BIG. He is a fine coach but at over twice the money as Dixon he has been living off past laurels. He is working on his 4th consecutive underachieving team. We all might wish that Jamie delivered more but the fact is his teams generally overachieve. I think we were picked to finish 6th in the Big East last year as an example. We aren’t going to finish 6th to 9th in the ACC this year either. 5 million dollar man Izzo is favored to win the BIG and I bet they don’t.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 11:44 am

According to College Basketball News P J Hairston will not be reinstated by the NCAA this year and probably will make himself available for the NBA.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.19.13 @ 12:30 pm

Also funny how today’s Zeise article stated that the 11 field goals were the fewest since Feb 8,1939 in a 41-22 loss to Penn State. Back when PSU was relevant in basketball LOL

Comment by gc 12.19.13 @ 12:38 pm

If Izzo or any championship coach lead the Blair teams into the floor their expressions would have said I’ve got the horses and you’re not stopping us. Izzo like so many other championship coaches is unfazed by pressure, great game time coaches. I maintain Dixon is too anxious esp away from Pete.

It’s funny Silver Panther how two guys can view the same thing and have opposite opinions. Reminds me of the story of the Aborigini who was debriefed after seeing civilization for the first time could only report see a man selling bananas. His level of consciousness was limited by his perceptions.

Comment by Old School Panther 12.19.13 @ 1:40 pm

Last year I thought the blog reached new lows when multiple dingbats spent many cyber moments here supposedly getting into the heads of 19 and 20-year-old kids and telling us how they felt, what motivated them, what they didn’t like, etc.

Pissing and moaning and speculating about the Head Coach’s facial expressions and body language seems right on up there with that. I’m sure you’re kind to puppies and children, pay taxes on time, and are a fine supporter of our athletic programs. But if this were a bar conversation, I’d laugh in your fucking grill for talking about that kind of crap. Jamie Dixon could have been wearing kabuki make-up and it still wouldn’t have stopped Reynolds from making the layup.

I’ve been at MSG for the Big East Championship win, for many other wins, for some loses, I’ve been to a bunch of away games as well. Jamie’s facial expressions are fine. If we’re going to break down late game strategy, tactics, decisions, overall composure, bring on some basketball analysis. Otherwise let’s just move on. This is so lame.

Comment by SilverPanther in NYC 12.19.13 @ 9:33 pm

@silverpanther, I have to agree with you completely concerning the lameness of the facial expression BS. Seems like more of a please notice I sit in the front move than anything else, however I think everyones point of view should be welcome here.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.20.13 @ 9:06 am

I heard Dixon on his weekly talk show with Hillgrove where he generally speaks so generally as to say nothing. He sounded genuinely surprised that we played so poorly. It gave me some hope that maybe we just had a bad night and all will soon be well. I hope we come out and kick the Poly out of Cal Poly. I mean just beat the stuffing out of them. Nothing like a 40 point win to ease pain. Score as many as we can and don’t allow them any. Make a statement.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.20.13 @ 9:13 am

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