This Week at the Pete: Panthers Have a Jekyll-and-Hyde Kind of Week

Paul SieversAnalyst IJanuary 31, 2009

"This Week at the Pete" is a weekly column that takes a look at all things Pitt basketball. Your comments are more than welcome, and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoy writing it.

Pitt played two games this week that could not have been any different. On Wednesday night, Pitt played Villanova on the road. The game was low scoring and tightly defended. The officials had a quick whistle, which worked against the Pitt big men. All of that aside, Pitt played like garbage and lost.

On Saturday, Pitt hosted Notre Dame in a high-scoring, defense-optional affair, where the refs did little to disrupt the flow of the game. Pitt played a phenomenal second half and won.

Before we get to the recaps, I would like to share some statistics we dug up here at TWATP.

Pitt is 0-2 against conference opponents when Newcastle United loses earlier in the day.

Pitt is 0-2 when the TWATP boys eat lunch at Taco Bell before the game.

Between football and basketball, Pitt has never played well in any of the five games when the TWATP boys watched the game at Champs Sports Bar in Rockville Centre, NY.

Coincidences? Almost certainly. But the keyword is almost. The TWATP boys give you their word that they will do their best to avoid Taco Bell and Champs at all costs. Let's get to the recap.


The Week That Was

Jan. 28 - lost @ Villanova 67-57

The Good

Philly product Brad Wanamaker scored 13 off the bench on six of seven shooting. He gets the game ball. Other than this, there was nothing good about Pitt’s performance against the Wildcats.


The Bad

Wow, where to even begin. Let's start with the shooting, Pitt was three of 16 from beyond the arc and 10 of 17 from the foul line. The Panthers had 17 turnovers to 15 assists.

They only out rebounded a guard heavy Villanova team by four. DeJuan Blair and Tyrell Biggs were in foul trouble for most of the game. While the refs were calling the game tight, most of the fouls on the Pitt big men were legitimate. Just really stupid play all around for Pitt.

This is not to discredit Villanova who did an excellent job disrupting the Pitt offence with the press. Jay Wright got the better of Jamie Dixon on this night.


The Ugly

At TWATP, we’re not going to say that officiating cost Pitt this game because Pitt did plenty to lose this one with out the help of the officials. That said, if the officials want to call it tight that’s fine if you don’t miss some obvious calls on Villanova.

Pitt was not the only team banging under the boards in this one. We really wish that the conference would get some new officials, the officiating in the Big East has been a joke this year.


Jan. 31 - def. Notre Dame 93-80

The Good

Both teams put on an offensive clinic in this one. For Pitt, aside from the late game foul shooting, Pitt shot wonderfully in this one. Most impressive however was Pitt only turning the ball over six times in what was undoubtedly the most helter-skelter game the Panthers played all year.

This game was not won entirely on the strength of Pitt’s finesse game as DeJuan Blair brought his lunch pail and was ready to work against all-world big man Luke Harangody. Blair gets the game ball with an eye-popping 22 rebounds to go along with 23 points. Blair’s rebounding effort was infectious as the team was plus 23 on the boards.

Credit has to go to Jamie Dixon for making wonderful halftime adjustments. Pitt was down 45-39 at halftime. The first half saw the Irish shoot 11 of 22 from beyond the arc while Harangody was double teamed on every touch. After some quick calculations that reveled that three is in fact more than two, Pitt took the double team off the big man.

The result? Notre Dame could not get clean looks on the perimeter and while Harangody got his points in the second half, the offence as a whole was not as potent.


The Bad

Pitt really needs to come out of the gates with more defensive intensity. A lot of credit has to go to Notre Dame for their first half offensive performance but some of their looks were way too easy.

Also, we were not thrilled with Pitt’s decision making late in the game. Pitt should have bled the shot clock more before the final TV timeout. Too many quick shots with a big lead.

On top of that, we have no idea why Levance Fields would foul Kyle MacAlarney shooting a three late in the game. There are things the Panthers will have to sure up in order to win in March.


The Ugly

Nothing was ugly in this one. This was the most entertaining game Pitt played all year. Notre Dame played with urgency but it was not enough. TWATP swears to watch as much Notre Dame basketball as possible this year because this team could go in any direction from here on out.

They could finish 12-6 or 6-12 in the conference, neither would be surprising. They are easily the most intriguing team in the Big East.


A Look Ahead

This week should be fairly easy for the Panthers. So easy that we’re not even going to write separate previews for the two games. Pitt hosts local “rival” Robert Morris Monday night and then travels to Chicago to take on DePaul on Saturday.

DePaul has sophomore guard Dar Tucker who could give the Panthers a little bit of a headache but Pitt is so much more talented than either of these teams. If Pitt were to lose either game it would be a monumental upset.


Race for the Coupons

Here is where we stand so far in the game ball standings.

Sam Young - 7

DeJuan Blair - 6

Jermaine Dixon - 3

Levance Fields - 2

Brad Wanamaker - 2

Tyrell Biggs - 1


Quote of the Week

"Twenty-two rebounds? I didn't know that. That's crazy. That's really something."

                                                                   - DeJuan Blair


Shameless Plug of the Week

Gambling. The only way to make the Super Bowl interesting if you don’t have a horse in the race. That’s right, at TWATP we are encouraging gambling. We took the Steelers -7.