Lots of gallows humor with last night’s Pitt-Miami game. Miami plays an even slower tempo than Virginia. And it was a slog.
Pitt escaped with the win. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t good basketball. It still counts as a win.
Pitt is struggling. The reasons are obvious. Zanna is clearly hobbled with the ankle sprain he suffered on Sunday, but he is still the best option for Pitt so Coach Jamie Dixon is playing him the same minutes.
“We fought through, obviously Talib is not 100 percent,” Dixon said. “There is no doubt about that, and we had foul trouble from a number of our guys and we had to put some guys at different spots. We had to win fight through some things to win a game against the reigning ACC champion.
“It is a win on the road, another road win and there aren’t a lot of those in conference play, and we have four of them and there aren’t too many teams that have four road wins.”
Teams are now keying on Lamar Patterson. He came up big at the end of the first half and late in the game, but he is getting no room on the court.
Part of that lack of space for Patterson is no one else stepping up. Well, Cam Wright is doing all he can. He kept Pitt going in the first half.
Durand Johnson’s injury shouldn’t have been devastating to the team, but it is clearly having an impact. As much as I decried the way he favored taking 3s over attacking the rim too frequently. As much as his lack of consistency from outside only exacerbated it. His perimeter shooting was important in helping to create some space for the rest of the offense.
As it stands, teams know that the ball is going inside the paint. This piece highlights teams that run most of their offense inside (Insider subs).
78.0 percent of attempts are 2s
Congratulations, Jamie Dixon. Among likely tournament teams, you have the single most interior-oriented offense in the bunch. Just 22 percent of Pittsburgh’s shot attempts in ACC play have been launched from beyond the arc.
Which raises a question. Is Pittsburgh too interior-oriented? To this point that answer would be no. The Panthers offense has proved it can score points even when opponents know in advance that nearly four out of every five shots will be 2s. Dixon’s men have recorded 1.12 points per possession in conference play, good for third best in the ACC behind just Duke and Syracuse.
All those 2s are being shot, for the most part, by Cameron Wright, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna, who have combined to make 55 percent of their attempts inside the arc. The interior orientation suits the Panthers on offense but keep an eye on this interior defense, where Pitt’s past six opponents have collectively made half of their 2s.
The numbers are based on conference play, only.
The problem has been in the last three games against teams with really solid defenses, Pitt is struggling mightily to get to the basket. Settling or being forced to take a lot of mid-range shots.
The issue is, who on this Pitt team outside of Lamar Patterson would you actually want shooting a three? Maybe Jamel Artis. He has shown is some range, and it seems that Coach Dixon is playing him more to be a wing player.
But last night Artis was cold — as were the entire crop of freshmen. Thank goodness Michael Young rebounds well, because his shooting has been brutal. No confidence in his shot at the moment. I don’t even want to discuss Newkirk after last night’s brutal effort. There was no one aside from Patterson that could be counted on to shoot from outside.
Part of why Pitt was able to so efficiently destroy Clemson was that the threes were going. Pitt hit over half their 3s. The floor opened up and there was more room to attack inside. In the past week, Pitt has played teams with very good defenses that took didn’t simply take away Patterson but defended well inside. They were daring Pitt to beat them from outside but there was no one who could.
Oh, and that comment at the end about the Pitt interior defense. Also a little scary.
Again, though, Pitt won. They won despite shooting 14-40 inside the arc (35%) and 4-14 from outside (28.6%). Miami was a little better shooting a hair better overall. How? By being the better team at the free throw line. No matter how often I’ve typed that this year, that still feels strange.
Miami was bad. They finished 14-25 and missed key free throws late in the game and in OT. Pitt by contrast made their FTs to the tune of 73% (19-26).
Lamar Patterson led the way late.
Lamar Patterson certainly remembers the depressing feeling of missing two free throws with a one-point lead against Cincinnati that led to Pitt’s first loss of the season.
At Miami, however, he claimed amnesia.
Patterson made three of four free throws in the final 10.6 seconds in scoring a school-record 10 of his game-high 25 points in overtime to lead the No. 25 Panthers to a 59-55 victory over Miami on Wednesday night at BankUnited Center.
“That’s something I’ve been working on,” Patterson said. “We lost games because I missed free throws or lost opportunities because I missed free throws that could have given us the lead or kept us in the game. That’s not acceptable being that I’ve been here for awhile.”