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January 25, 2014

Maryland Inside and Out

Filed under: Basketball,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 10:24 am

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.

Turgeon is very sarcastic and real critical at times. That is something we have never seen from JD. Granted his teams have out performed the Terps for the most part but even when things got tough a couple years back Dixon didn’t point any fingers or smart mouth the players. Sometimes as a fan you wish JD was a little tougher on the players then you run into a Turgeon and realize how lucky we are.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 10:44 am

7 & half hours to tip, think I’m pumped? Team concept basketball is a joy to watch, became hooked on it since Cousey & Jones ran the Celtics fast break; when first Red Auerbach then Red Holtzman demanded hitting the open man. This Pitt squad has some of those elements and it starts with selflessness.

I think this team has the capacity to play better in any rematch, which will be necessary to beat MD in their place. Let’s Go Pitt!

Comment by Old School Panther 01.25.14 @ 10:52 am

Like it or not, there are several signs that this will be a competitive game .. and in a close game on the opponents’ floor, who knows what can happen.

In addition to all the signs of this being a trap game for Pitt, Maryland is returning home after an embarrassment and should be very focused. With all things being equal, Pitt is certainly a better team but that is why they play the game

Comment by wbb 01.25.14 @ 11:02 am

Even a casual fan would suspect a tough game at Maryland. They have a lot of size and talent and we are all waiting for the old ACC teams play to catch up with their reputation. With all that in mind I agree it is unlikely we will be looking ahead to Duke and expect Pitt to play well. Put all that together and I still see consistent Pitt winning by about 15, while Maryland continues to try to figure out what they are doing wrong. I think 4 points is the best gift since Christmas.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 11:02 am

Old School Panther hit it right on the head with the phrase, “team concept basketball”. Pitt dismantled the Tigers in their last game with their methodical “grind the clock” offensive passing schemes that usually resulted in penetrating the defense to give an interior basket in the paint more often than not.

That was the best “team effort” that I think that I’ve ever witnessed from the Panthers. Remember that Clemson was no slouch on defending the basket, but Pitt was just too damn efficient in their patience and discipline to be denied. By the game’s end it was obvious that the Tigers simply had no answer for what Pitt was doing to their defensive efforts.

If Pitt continues to play that type of “team” BB, this game is another no contest against the Terrapins. If Pitt just plays the same unselfish BB tonight we’ll be just fine.

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.25.14 @ 11:16 am

wbb, The reason they were embarrassed is because they played bad. They have lost 8 games and their best win is at home against Notre Dame. We consistently win by a large margin and todays game looks like a win to me. These middle of the pack ACC teams aren’t nearly as good as the midpack teams were in the Big East. Just because they are at home doesn’t make them any good. We might beat them worse this time than last.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 11:21 am

The only sign I see that points to this being a competitive game is the point spread. What has Maryland done to make anyone think they can hang with Pitt? What has Pitt done to make anyone think they will struggle with Maryland? The answer is nothing. Is Maryland such a daunting place to play that we should soil our gutchies in panic? I don’t think so-give the 4 and be thankful for the generosity.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 11:29 am

OK, so now explaine to me, with all of the additional revenue that Pitt is getting from being in the ACC Conference, why the administration can’t figure out how to buy enough turf for Heinz Field to be able to appropriately dedicate the 125 years of Panther Football with a “good sized” midfield logo just like this one below, for every Pitt home game at Heinz Field? It would beat the snot out of that pathetic white circle block PITT one that they used last season, for sure. And while you’re at it, buy a few more square yards of turf for every game and role out the frickin ACC logo ON THE FIELD where they belong, on game days as well.

Come on Peterson, do something right for a change with the Heinz field venue, will ya???

pitt logo.jpg (file://TOMRICHARDS-PC/Users/Tom%20Richards/Pictures/pitt%20logo.jpg)

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.25.14 @ 11:40 am

Sorry, apparently my file sharing isn’t working above, but you can checkout the logo on the Official Athletic Panther website, it looks good, and good riddence to the “dinocat”. This Panther head is much better!

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.25.14 @ 11:42 am

Agreed Dr. Tom… I really like the logo, it’s like we should have had it for the past 10 years.

Comment by Benzene 01.25.14 @ 11:48 am

I changed my mind. I suggested previously that incoming Freshman Chris James should be given the nodd for RB this coming season allowing James Conner to flip over to the defensive side of the ball. Nope, after looking at this kids season highlights, I think he stays at running back for now.

link to

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.25.14 @ 11:48 am

Games today that can help Pitt’s RPI/seeding:

Syracuse over Miami (Orangemen should get a road win)

Texas Tech over Oklahoma (TTU may may get a home win over a top 25 team)

Loyola Marymount over St. Mary’s (Not likely)

Howard over Florida A&M (Not likely)

Savannah State over Hampton (Should be close)

Duquesne over St. Bonaventure (Dukes played St. Louis close. Could they pull an upset against the Bonnies?)

Lehigh over Lafayette (Lehigh should get the win)

Youngstown State over Wright State (YSU at home)

Cal Poly over California Riverside (Cal Poly should get a road win)

Fresno State over UNLV (Not likely)

And, of course, Pitt over MD (I expect Pitt to cover)

Comment by xfmrman 01.25.14 @ 11:55 am

@Dr Tom, I loved the high lights but think James is an ideal style of back for our offense. I love that he is short yet strong. He will be able to hide behind our big lineman and with his speed take what Conner is doing to another level. I am very excited about our running game for next year.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 12:09 pm

Pederson has no say whatsoever on what is painted on the field. The Heinz Field grounds crew doesn’t want to be constantly painting over things to change between the Steelers & Panthers. They did it the first couple years, it was a pain in the ass, & they’re not going to do it again.

Comment by Nick 01.25.14 @ 12:12 pm

To understand just how GOOD of a Running Back Conner is… consider the drop off in production that you get when Bennett gets the ball.

Now does Conner have a chance to make it as a Running Back in the NFL… that’s a BIG Question. Unless he’s able to play Full Back like Hynoski… which I doubt… Defense is probably a better bet.

But who knows?

Still what you have with Conner going into next year is a PROVEN COMMODITY.

An improved Offensive Line might make it possible for Conner to pick up right where he left off.

Comment by PittofDreams 01.25.14 @ 12:24 pm

SOS22, you make sense and I certainly hope you’re right

Comment by wbb 01.25.14 @ 12:30 pm

No offense intended Nick, but I could give a flying fu*k about any discomfort experienced on the backsides of guys over there at Heinz Field who are getting paid a good buck simply do their frickin ground crew functions. Earn your $$$$!

First off, the University leases that facility, so Pitt’s administration pretty damn well should demand some say about the field conditions and appearance during the time that the lease is in effect. Secondly, who’s “painting over” anything? If you bothered to read my post, I suggested full scale turf replacement for each game. How difficult could it be to replace a few square yards of sod, times three, to obtain a look at midfield and downfield for the ACC logos that is appropriate for, televised games especially, of a major college football program in the ACC.

For Christ’s sake, the ground crew replaced the entire field with new sod towards the end of the season at Heinz Field last year. So don’t tell me it can’t be accomplished, that’s just BS.

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.25.14 @ 12:33 pm

@WBB, You and my creditors…Lol

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 12:35 pm

if James Conner flips to DE, that is more of a statement about our DEs than it is about James. PC loves to have a stable of good RBs (didn’t he have 3 1000 yds RBs in one year at Wisc?) and he knows how to use them. There will be plenty of carries for both James and Conner this year (hopefully.)

Comment by wbb 01.25.14 @ 12:36 pm

@WBB, I agree ,he will run a lot and with many.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 12:39 pm

Dr Tom, first off, the sod is replaced every year, right after the week of the WPial Championships. (4 games in 1 day)

2nd, the Steelers never get too fancy with the logo or endzone until after Pitt’s season is over. This is grass field that can’t be painted over like the artificial ones.

BTW, do you know that Pitt’s lockerroom is larger than Stillers? I’ve been in both and can verify it.

Comment by wbb 01.25.14 @ 12:46 pm

Totally agree that this has all the makings of a classic trap game. Dixon has been very good at keeping his team focused. This game will test that ability.

Despite the rampant disagreement on this site, I am sticking to my thesis:

This group of freshmen is VERY talented and is capable of more if given the opportunity. Minutes, shots, opportunity given to them now will pay off big time in March.

Comment by Boubabcar Aw 01.25.14 @ 12:50 pm

As I recall the last time we played the Terps Johnson came off the bench to break the game open. Talib almost had a double double and we coasted home to a 20 point win. Maryland is going to work hard to do all the right things this time. They likely will be in the game at the half and even into the second period. Eventually they will screw up and revert to form, Pitt will jump on the mistakes and grab about a ten point lead. Maryland will have to foul out of desperation and Pitt will hold them at bay from there. Pitt will likely out hustle them for loose balls, shoot more fouls , and turn the ball over less. We could best be described as methodically efficient, while they deserve the label out of sync.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 12:54 pm

I recall people labeling the Clemson game a trap game. We got trapped into winning by 30 plus in that one. I don’t think we will get trapped quite as much in Maryland so maybe we will only win by 15.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 1:00 pm

Dr. Tom, I agree. Conner needs to carry the ball. If James plays well enough warrent the snaps great! There’s nothing wrong with thunder and lightning in the backfield. Remember Miami’s Larry Czonka-Mercury Morris combo. Connor shows such great power running ability that he has to get his carries. He punishes the opponent’s linebackers and defensive backs.

Comment by Justinian 01.25.14 @ 1:06 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised if Pitt wins big but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it’s close game … if that makes any sense.

Comment by wbb 01.25.14 @ 1:08 pm

Spirit, I for one, was worried about the Clemson game. I thought losing a tough game against Syracure might have lingering effects. Glad to be wrong on that one.

Comment by Justinian 01.25.14 @ 1:09 pm

Line rising to 4.5 at some sites

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 1:10 pm

Duke taking care of business at home against FSU.

Comment by Boubabcar Aw 01.25.14 @ 1:15 pm

Justinian, I worry about every game but you have to step back and try to get a true picture. Other than the betting line there is no realistic reason that I know of to suggest Maryland will hang with Pitt. I can’t remember a more consistent Pitt team than this one. Maryland has consistently been dysfunctional. Suggesting that Pitt has a real hard time at Maryland seems illogical to me. Anything can happen on the road and I am no Kresgin but there isn’t any logical reason we shouldn’t thump these chumps pretty good from my perspective.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 1:19 pm

wbb, huh?

Your point is?

You agree that the sod can be replaced, it is done routinely on an annual basis for the whole field. I’m not concerned about touching the endzones at all, so no issues there. And it’s nice that Pitt has a larger locker room than the Steelers, but how does that become relevant in a discussion about sod replacement for Pitt games at Heinz Field?.

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.25.14 @ 1:23 pm

@Boubabcar, It looks like Coach K has righted the ship. That should make spanking the Dukies that much more fun Monday night. I heard a radio guy on the fan saying you had to be nuts to spend $250 to see Pitt play Duke. I’m nuts then because I think it is about the most exciting venue available to a Pittsburgh sports fan. The Pete will be rockin and we are going to beat the Dukies.

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 1:27 pm

@Dr Tom, It’s 10 degrees and there is a blizzard coming thru- In a couple hours our hoop team tips off for a big conference road game- Even during the heart of the football season there are only about 2 people besides you that care about field logos- Why don’t you put the landscaping off til spring and join in on some of the hoop conversation?

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 1:33 pm

@Justinian, Where did you find turtle steak on the menu?

Comment by spiritofsection22 01.25.14 @ 2:05 pm

all I’m saying is that when they replace sod, it is for both teams that play there just like what logos are put on the field. The city owns the stadium but the Rooneys run it, that’s the deal .. and they don’t show any favoritism how the field is prepared..

Comment by wbb 01.25.14 @ 2:08 pm

SofS22, no worries. I’ll be at the game! I’m already pregaming, just a little, before heading out to Looney’s Pub. So we’re all about the BB team today!

Hail to Pitt!!!!!!

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.25.14 @ 2:28 pm

This Miami-Cuse game is good. Should go down to the end. It’s on CBS.

Comment by Nick 01.25.14 @ 2:32 pm

Nick, I just turned that game on a short while ago (at 39-31) and Miami has yet to miss a shot. They have made something like 6 straight including a lob pass that appears to have gone in.

Comment by wbb 01.25.14 @ 2:37 pm

Cuse jumped out 26-8, Miami ended 1st half on 16-3 run to get within 5. 2nd half has been close & Miami just tied it with a chance to go up 1 on a foul shot after break.

Comment by Nick 01.25.14 @ 2:37 pm

Way to hijack the basketball post Dr. Tom!

I rewound that hit on the UVA safety about five times.

Connor is a beast. Wait till he actually gets into the weight room. I bet he plays both ways next year, at least Defense on passing downs.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 01.25.14 @ 4:33 pm

Efff the ground crew at Heinz Field!!

Heinz Field was about 270 million dollars.

The Steelers (and I’m a Steeler fan too), paid about 57 million. That’s about 20% give or take a few million.

Through in the 30 million Heinz name license if you want, if that went into it???

That’s a little over 30% of the cost. The other 70% or so?? The taxpayers of the 7 country or so “region”.

University of Pittsburgh, is one of the biggest, if not the biggest employer in the “region”.

You don’t ask, you tell them!!

They put wood down over the whole field when concerts come to town. They can’t change out a bit of field turf.

For cryin’ out loud, they played a hockey game there, they can’t change the turf 6 times a year??


Comment by Dan 01.25.14 @ 9:26 pm

p.s. The “eff” is if in fact, that is what the grounds crew said and feels.

My apology in advance if that isn’t the case.

If that’s not the case, I welcome any ground crew people, to certainly correct me and tell us why.

It can’t be that difficult. You tube any Miami Dolphins game, and any Miami Hurricanes game.

You will notice, that the “U” had a beautiful, huge “U” on their field, had the “ACC” markings, and the end zones said “Hurricanes” when they played.

And no, they didn’t spray paint green over aqua.

It was one of the nicest college football fields of the year, and it made the whole experience, at a pro stadium, that they share, into almost a total college football experience.

I’ve heard all of the excuses too. It’s the field, it’s the Steelers, it’s the weather, it’s this and it’s that. Just friggin’ do it.

Comment by Dan 01.25.14 @ 9:53 pm

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