This Week at the Pete: Panthers Avoid a Letdown

Paul SieversAnalyst IFebruary 15, 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 I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.

I write this weeks column with some good news and bad news. The good news is that you get to read a sports column without having to talk about Brett Farve or A-Rod.

The bad news is that due to poor readership and a struggling economy, our sponsors voided the contract. As a result, I had to lay off the rest of the TWATP boys. I am now alone here at TWATP headquarters, it‘s really a lot of pressure. Lets get into it.

The Week That Was

2/9 - Pitt def. WVU 70-59

The Good:

Pitt finally won a game against a quality opponent with DeJuan Blair in foul trouble. It helped that their opponents were in just as much foul trouble.

The Panthers got away from their new found affinity for offensive minded basketball in this one and went back to the grind it out style of years past. This was their best defensive effort of the month as the Panthers took WVU star DeSean Butler completely out of the game, holding him to four points.

The Panthers were +15 on the boards against a Mountaineer squad that is pretty aggressive. WVU ranks 16th in offensive rebounding, Pitt was able to hold them to four offensive boards.

WVU also ranks 13th in forcing turnovers, Pitt only turned the ball over 11 times against WVU.

Sam Young gets the game ball for his 20 point effort. Sam did a very good job driving the lane and forcing the defense to react. While his jump shot has improved, he is at his best when he can get his points in the paint to set up the jumper. Not the other way around.

The Bad:

Not a whole lot to complain about here. Pitt lacked a little bit of fluidity on offense in this one, but most of the credit has to go to a very good WVU defense. I would have liked to have seen Pitt do a better job on Alex Ruoff who scored 17 on 4 of 7 three point shooting; but he is a very tough match-up on the perimeter at 6’6”. It is inevitable that he is going to get some good looks on the outside with his height.

The Ugly:

Oh man. There was a lot to complain about in this one. Lets start with Pitt’s gold jerseys. I’m very glad Adidas was able to design something for Mr. T’s pickup games but no need to force the design on the Panthers. Gold never works well in this rivalry.

Then there was the officiating. As a Pitt fan, I probably shouldn’t be doing too much complaining since WVU probably got the worst of the whistle fest but this was the worst officiated game of the year. Far worse than the Villanova, Louisville and South Florida games.

38 fouls were called in a game that wasn’t extremely physical. Big East fans like to joke that games with a quick whistle are “ACC games.” To call this one an ACC game would be too cruel to our neighbors to the south. Jay Bilas said it best, “My ears hurt from all of the whistles in this one.”

There is no need to call every touch foul when two rivals face off. This was a nationally televised game and the over-officiating ruined a chance for two schools to show the nation what a great rivalry this is.

2/14 - Pitt def. Cincinnati 85-69

The Good:

This was a very workmanlike effort from the Panthers who remain undefeated at home this season, winning every game by a double digit margin. Their solid play allowed Gary McGee, Nasir Robinson and Ryan Tiesi to all pick up trillions.

Pitt shot lights out in this one, tying a school record at 67.4 percent from the field. Pitt also did a great job of getting to the foul line, shooting 29 free throws. Cincinnati has a very big front line so it was encouraging to see the Panthers unafraid to challenge.

It was also wonderful to see how the Panther’s handled the Bearcat full court press. In Pitt’s two losses, their inability to consistently handle the press was a major factor. Pitt only had one turnover against the press in this one. Pitt fans are well aware of Levance Fields ball handling ability but Jermaine Dixon proved to be just as reliable with his handle.

Pitt had five scorers in double figures and when everyone is scoring the point guard has to get the credit. Levance Fields was exceptional in the game, 11 points, 13 assists, and zero turnovers. Vance getting another game ball should come as no surprise. The senior is playing his best basketball of his career right now and the rest of country needs to take notice.

The Bad:

Pitt did not play a whole lot of defense in this one. The Bearcats were able to shoot 52 percent from the field and 46 percent from three despite their best scorer, Deonta Vaughn’s poor play.

The Panthers did not rebound very well in this one either. They were only +2 on the glass. DeJuan Blair did not seem to be very emotionally invested in this game.

The Ugly:

Mick Cronin

A Look Ahead

Monday 2/16 - @ Connecticut, 7pm on ESPN

Pitt’s game at No. 1 UConn might be the most hyped game in the history of Pitt hoops. Dealing with the hype will the first challenge for the Panthers.

Far more imposing than the media will be UConn front line of Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet. Jeff Adrien is an automatic double-double and will be a match-up nightmare for Jamie Dixon’s squad. Tyrell Biggs will have to focus all of his energy on keeping Adrien off of the glass.

Hasheem Thabeet is coming off of a career day at Seton Hall where he had 25 points, 20 rebounds, and nine blocked shots. Thabeet is a Conference and National POY candidate and maybe the best shot blocker in the history of a program that has had a lot of them. DeJuan Blair is going to have his hands full with the young man from Tanzania.

To me, Levance Fields is going to have to continue to play phenomenal basketball if Pitt is going to have a chance to win this game. Levance and the other guards are going to be matched against a set of UConn guards who like to pressure the ball.

Once that pressure is beaten it will be imperative for the guards to get in the lane, draw Thabeet’s attention and make a pass around Thabeet’s long arms.

This game is on the road and it just feels like Pitt is going to need too many things to go right in order to win this one. I think the Huskies win this one.

Saturday 2/21 - vs. DePaul, 7pm

What can be said about DePaul that hasn’t already been said about the Detroit Lions. Pitt won the first game against the Blue Demons by 23, this game is at home. Pitt wins easy.

Race for the Coupons

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

Sam Young - 8

DeJuan Blair - 7

Levance Fields - 4

Jermaine Dixon - 3

Brad Wanamaker - 2

Tyrell Biggs - 1

Quote of the Week

“Nah, we were talking about the refs. I’m not going to tell you what we said.”

- Jermaine Dixon on “trash talking” with WVU’s Alex Ruoff

Shameless Plug of the Week

Wednesday, February 18th is National Pitt Networking Day. I encourage all Pitt alums to go to the alumni association web site to find where the event in your area will be held.

I will be making an appearance for all of my adoring fans this week in New York City at the Pitt Alumni Networking event at the Time Lounge on 49th and Broadway. Come to meet me, stay to chat with your fellow alumni. Should be a great evening for all the Panthers in the area.