This Week at the Pete: Pitt Makes a Statement

Paul SieversAnalyst IFebruary 22, 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.  

The statement I am referring to in the title wasn’t so much the win against the Huskies as it was one single play in the first half. That play symbolized a player and a team perfectly.

With one single act of brute strength on national television, DeJuan Blair made it known that this year’s version of the Pitt Panthers will yield to nobody.

Any team who thinks they are going to beat Pitt on pure ability has another thing coming. In order to beat the Panthers, boat loads of resolve are necessary as this Pitt team is happy to hit you in the mouth for 40 minutes. Until a team with that kind of heart step up against Pitt, Pitt will hold on to the No. 1 ranking.

The Week that Was

2/16 - def. UConn 76-68

The Good:

Pitt’s first win against a No. 1 team has already been recapped ad nauseum so I’ll try to keep this brief. Who are we kidding. That’s not happening.

DeJuan Blair was a man with 22 points and 23 boards while his counter part Hasheem Thabeet could never get on track, finishing with five and four. Any synonym for gritty is applicable for the best night of DeJuan’s career. He gets the game ball.

Pitt was able to score 76 points against the fourth most efficient defense in America. Sam Young was fantastic with 25 points on eight of 13 shooting. Pitt also did a very good job of getting to the foul line. The Panthers shot more free throws than a Huskie squad that is No. 1 in keeping their opponents off of the foul line.

A lot of credit has to be given to Pitt for their willingness to take the game to Thabeet and the other UConn big men. The Panthers were one of the few teams not to be intimidated by UConn’s size and strength.

Pitt was also very solid defensively in this one. As a team, they held UConn below all of their shooting averages. They also out-rebounded a Husky squad that had not been out-rebounded by anybody to that point. It was not a slim margin on the boards either, Pitt was +13 on the glass.

Possibly the most encouraging thing we saw was how Pitt kept their composure. Pitt executed down the stretch on the road in a very hostile environment.

Levance Fields continued to bolster his argument as the must clutch human on the planet as he knocked down two big three pointers at the end. Levance had enough confidence to pull the trigger on these shots despite the fact that he was oh-for-eight from the field to that point.

The Bad:

Despite the loss of Jerome Dyson, UConn’s guards dominated Pitt’s. Levance Fields and his backcourt mates could not handle the athleticism of A.J. Price, Craig Austrie, and Kemba Walker. The three UConn guards could beat the Pitt guards off the dribble at will in this one. Pitt’s guards couldn’t get any dribble penetration against the Huskies.

Pitt’s bench play was also very poor in this game. Brad Wanamaker had his worst game since conference play started. Gilbert Brown played good defense but contributed nothing on offense. Ashton Gibbs struggled. And then there was Gary McGhee…

The Ugly:

Here’s the game log of Gary’s action in the first half. He did not return to the game after this.

12:08 - Gary McGhee enters the game, replacing DeJuan Blair

11:51 - Foul on Gary McGhee

11:51 - Foul on Gary McGhee

11:50 - Foul on Gary McGhee

11:50 - DeJuan Blair enters the game, replacing Gary McGhee

Three fouls in 18 seconds has to be some kind of record.

2/21 def. DePaul 80-61

The Good:

Pitt has still yet to win by fewer than 10 points at home this year. The Panthers are now 15-0 at the Peteresen Event Center this season and 113-10 in the building since she opened her doors in 2002.

Pitt took care of business and laid the smack down on the Blue Demons in this one, dominating just about every phase of the game. The Panther’s had four scorers in double figures and were +24 on the glass.

The team was once again led by DeJuan Blair who had 18 points and 20 boards in only 23 minutes of play. Not only is he now the front runner for Big East POY, he’s taken the lead for TWAPT POY as well.

Also, Ryan Tiesi’s trillion is the new Pitt victory cigar. Sean Brown had a trillion as well.

The Bad:

Pitt really didn’t defend well in this one. DePaul is a terrible three point shooting team, yet the Demons shot 11 of 25 from distance in this one. Pitt got away with it in this one but they can not give up open looks on the outside against better competition.

Pitt is also struggling to get scoring out of the point guard position. Levance Fields had his second straight bad shooting game, going two of seven from the field.

Ashton Gibbs who couldn’t miss a few weeks ago seems to be overly confident in his shot. Ashton was oh-for-four against DePaul, few of his shots seemed as to be good decisions. The freshman needs to learn a little humility if he wants to remain in the rotation come March.

The Ugly:

DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright has his own website, shockingly his resume is nowhere to be found there. It’s always hard to watch a lame duck coach roam the sidelines.

A Look Ahead

We are officially calling this Trap Week here at TWATP. Pitt will play two games on the road against teams they should beat before two marquee home games next week. If Pitt is caught looking ahead at any point this week they will be embarrassed and their hope of getting a one seed at the Big Dance will take a serious hit.

2/24 - @ Providence, 7 pm

It has been almost five years since Aaron Gray threw down the dunk heard round New England in a 27 point defeat of a highly ranked Providence squad. The Providence basketball program has not been the same since that game and Tuesday night is their chance to exorcise some demons.

The Friars are the fourth most experienced team in America with five 1,000 point scorers on the roster. Their style of play can best be described as basketball in a blender. Providence plays at a pace faster than any team in the conference.

Their style of defense is built to exploit Pitt, the Friars like to play zone defense while pressing as much as possible. If Pitt is going to win this game, Levance Fields will need to get his shot working in addition to his steady decision making.

Providence will have trouble scoring on Pitt as well. The teams that are able to score against Pitt are teams that shoot the three pointer. Providence does not do a whole lot of perimeter shooting.

I don’t think this game is going to be pretty based on the way the teams match up with each other. If Pitt is not careful I think they can lose this one very easily. Unfortunately for the Friars, nothing about Pitt suggests that they will be looking past this game. I think Pitt wins.

2/28 - @ Seton Hall, 8:30 pm

On Saturday Pitt will make their second trip to the Prudential Center this season, this time to face the Seton Hall Pirates. The Pirates are led by sophomore guard Jeremy Hazell, the conference’s second leading scorer.

Like Providence, Seton Hall will be chomping at the bit to host the No. 1 team in America. Unlike Providence, Seton Hall matches up terribly with Pitt. Pitt is the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in America, Seton Hall ranks 334th in defensive rebounding. DeJuan Blair could go for 30 and 30 in this game.

Seton Hall does not do anything offensively that Pitt can’t handle either. This game won’t be as difficult as Providence but any road game is difficult in this conference. I still think Pitt will win.

Race for the Coupons

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

DeJuan Blair - 9

Sam Young - 8

Levance Fields - 4

Jermaine Dixon - 3

Brad Wanamaker - 2

Tyrell Biggs - 1

Quote of the Week

"It's like two straight meals that my wife cooks. It looks good at the beginning, but it's difficult swallowing."                               

                                           -Jerry Wainwright on playing Pitt twice this year

Shameless Plug of the Week

Added bonus to all fans attending the Pitt-Seton Hall game, I’ll be there! I encourage everyone in the greater NY area to attend. Go to get my autograph, stay for the basketball. Personally, I am very excited since this will be only the second time I have gotten to see Pitt in person this year.