I’ve written at least once this week, that I don’t think Pitt will look past Maryland. If for no other reason than the amount of friends and family that the players will have at the game. Whether it turns out those players press and try to do too much because of said friends and family are in attendance is something entirely different.
Coach Dixon doesn’t seem to be pushing that warning in public, either. Instead talking about the focus they have shown.
He said one of the things that has impressed him the most about this team is, despite having five new players (four freshman and a transfer) playing large roles, the Panthers have been mature and task-oriented and he doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.
“We have been a very focused group, we have been able to key on the next opponent,” Dixon said.
“I think the guys will be prepared and know what to do, but we have to execute as well. We’re not going to be surprised by things and we should have a better handle on where they are trying to score from and how they are trying to attack us.”
I will be curious about the crowd at College Park. This has been a disappointing season so far, and they aren’t playing one of their old foes one last time before heading to the Big Ten.
How disappointing? When one of the headlines about the team/game tonight is “As their season spirals down, Terps know they need to toughen up.”
“We definitely need to play with more intensity, I think,” sophomore forward Jake Layman said after practice Friday. “We do have to play with a chip on our shoulder, we do have to come into every game like this could be the breaking point in our season.”
Said junior guard Dez Wells: “It’s a cliche, but it’s something you can’t teach. Chip on your shoulder, back against the wall, same thing, but we definitely need to come out. We just need to come out … ready to compete.”
After the loss to N.C. State, junior forward Evan Smotrycz said the Terps were “too talented” to play the way they did, particularly in the second half, when they surrendered an 11-point lead amid a flurry of quick and questionable shots.
Asked Friday whether he agreed with Smotrycz’s assessment, Turgeon said: “I don’t know if we’re too good. I think we’re too impatient, too immature, too selfish. When things go bad, we try to do it on our own. … We’ll see how committed they are to being successful.”
Pitt’s point of emphasis for tonight is better defense on the perimeter.
Reinforcing his message from the first game, Dixon instructed his players this week to concentrate on stopping Maryland’s 3-point shooters in Saturday’s 6 p.m. rematch at Comcast Center.
Maryland forward Evan Smotrycz, in particular, concerns Dixon after the junior forward hit 4 of his 11 3-point attempts at Pitt.
Dixon, however, is confident the No. 20 Panthers (17-2, 5-1) will defend better in their second meeting against Maryland.
The Terrapins (11-8, 3-3) are among four teams Pitt will face twice in its inaugural ACC campaign, along with Syracuse (Feb. 12), N.C. State (March 3) and Clemson (March 8).
“Guarding the 3 is a main priority for us,” Dixon said. “(Maryland’s) dangerous because of the way they shoot the ball. I think I said after the game about them shooting 3s, our guys being surprised by some of their bigger guys. Smotrycz shot a couple of 3s early.
“Our younger guys, we kept drilling them, talking, reinforcing they’re going to shoot it from 3, they’re going to shoot it from deep, guarded, unguarded. Hopefully, we’re a better defensive team now than we were then.”
Seems sound. But Maryland’s inconsistency this season with their outside shot appears to have Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon thinking more about the interior.
One of the few positives in Monday’s loss at North Carolina State came in the first half, when Turgeon went to a more traditional lineup that featured a power forward and center.
Though neither junior forward Jon Graham (Calvert Hall) or freshman center Damonte Dodd are thought of as scorers, both were Monday, combining for 10 points in 27 minutes.
They also each had four rebounds, with the 6-foot-10 Dodd adding a blocked shot. On top of that, sophomore forward Charles Mitchell collected a career-high 18 rebounds.
Given the size Pittsburgh presents with 6-9, 230-pound center Talib Zanna and 6-8, 245-pound Michael Young, look for the Terps to go with a big lineup at times Saturday.
“I did think our bigger lineup was better” against N.C. State, Turgeon said Friday. “I was encouraged with our rebounding and physicality with the big lineup. We can play both ways.”
The Terps held their own in rebounding against Pitt. We will see if the Maryland players on the court can actually go with a gameplan of attacking inside. Or will they fall into their own habits of shooting jumpers.
Further in the article is Turgeon’s frustration with the point guard play he has been getting. Especially defensively.