This Week at the Pete : Pitt's Stint at the Summit is Short Lived

Paul SieversAnalyst IMarch 2, 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.

Before I get into the recaps, I just want to share an interesting tidbit from Basketball Prospectus on Pitt’s loss to Providence.

On February, 26 2006, Florida lost on the road to Alabama. Alabama snuck into the tournament as a 10 seed, Florida went on to win the national title.

On February, 24 2007, Florida lost on the road to LSU. LSU didn’t make the tournament while Florida went on to win its second straight title.

On February 23, 2008, Kansas lost on the road to Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State didn’t make the tournament while Kansas, you guessed it, won the national title.

Would I rather Pitt had beaten Providence? Absolutely! Was Pitt’s loss a good thing? No, no loss is a good thing in college sports. The point is that these things do happen. Pitt’s loss last Tuesday changes nothing.

Good, I can pretend that made me feel a little better about things. Now I can get on with the recap.

The Week That Was

2/24 - Pitt loses @ Providence 81-73

The Good:

Pitt at least showed a little bit of intestinal fortitude by battling back in the second half, and getting an 18-point halftime deficit down to five with under a minute to play.

Aston Gibbs gets the game for his 15 point outburst off the bench. The sharp shooting freshman was four-of-six from beyond the arc.

That was about it.

The Bad:

Before I make it sound like the loss was all Pitt’s fault, credit needs to be given where credit is due. Providence came out on Senior Night with tremendous energy and executed flawlessly.

Their interior passing in the first half was some of the best ball movement I’ve seen. Defensively, they were fantastic. Their zone was one of the best zones Pitt faced all year.

Now, time for me to vent.

Pitt is the best rebounding team in the Big East. Providence is one of the worst. How Pitt only won the battle on the boards by seven is beyond me. This should have been a game where Pitt grabbed at least two thirds of the rebounds.

Providence is 190th in America in forcing turnovers, Pitt is 33rd in not committing them.

Pitt’s 18 turnovers versus 12 assists was the biggest statistical aberration of the game. Once again, credit the Friars who played their best defense of the year. However, this was not all Providence playing good defense.

All of the Panthers, notably DeJuan Blair, forced the action too much. Unfortunately, when the Panthers did get open looks in the first half, they often weren’t able to convert.

Some of the blame has to be placed on Levance Fields and Jamie Dixon. Neither could figure out the Providence zone.

Defensively, Pitt was an absolute train wreck. Providence’s guards were able to get into the lane at will. When they beat their defender, the help-defense was always a step slow. Providence was able to hit all of their open looks in the first half and put the game out of reach.

Aston Gibbs aside, Pitt got nothing from the bench. The other bench players had more turnovers (five) than points (three).

The Ugly:

In the first half, Brad Wanamaker blew a wide open fast break lay up and then fouled the Providence defender who got the rebound. The play was so ugly that it broke the foot stool in my living room.

Sure it might have appeared that I had my hands on the footstool and was throwing it towards the ground but make no mistake about it, Brad’s brick broke that stool. Not me.

2/28 Pitt def. Seton Hall 89-78

The Good:

The Panthers had a pretty good shooting night inside the arc against the Pirates. Pitt shot 52 percent from the field and 77 percent from the line. Pitt’s makes were mostly a result of good ball movement against the zone. Something that was missing earlier in the week at Providence.

Pitt had 30 field goals, 23 of which came off of an assist. Levance Fields had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists.

Sam Young’s game ball winning performance was a direct result of Pitt’s ability to stretch Seton Hall’s zone defense. Opening up the mid-range jumper at the elbow. Sam had that shot open all night, he finished with 29 points on 10-15 shooting to go along with ten rebounds.

Pitt also dominated the boards despite an injury to DeJuan Blair that clearly bothered him all night. Pitt out-rebounded the Pirates 44 to 21.

We also got a trillion out of Gary McGhee.

The Bad:

Pitt committed so many bad turnovers in this one, 23 in all. If you’re keeping score at home, the 33rd best team in America when it comes to taking care of the basketball committed 41 turnovers.

The highlight was Sam Young getting called for palming on back to back possessions.

Other than that, Pitt played a pretty solid game. The game was not as close as the score made it seem.

The Ugly:

I spoke to Bobby Gonzalez before the game. He told me that if I transferred my column to Seton Hall, I would have to stop writing for a year. We could pretend that I did it for family reasons.

A Look Ahead

3/ 4 vs. Marquette, 7:30 pm on ESPN 2

On Wednesday night, Pitt and Marquette will write the next chapter of what is quickly becoming an interesting little rivalry. Of course, the Golden Eagles will be without senior point guard and Panther nemesis Dominic James who is out for the rest of the season with a broken bone in his foot.

Marquette is you’re typical guard-heavy team. They shoot the ball well and get a lot of steals to compensate for their lack of height. Pitt will have a lot of trouble matching up with Wesley Mathews and Jerel McNeal. Marquette will have a lot of trouble matching up with Sam Young and DeJuan Blair.

There are so many mismatches in this game, which ever team is more opportunistic exploiting their opponent’s weakness will win. Since Marquette joined the conference, they are 4-1 against Pitt in the regular season while Pitt has won both match-ups in the Big East tournament.

I think the rivalry will hold its form and Marquette will pull out a huge win on Wednesday night.

3/7 vs. Connecticut, Noon on CBS

After the first match-up, this is going to be an absolute war. Both teams are very similar, its going to come down to who wants it more.

Sure, UConn feels a little slighted and has revenge on their mind but I don’t think that Pitt is going to be outworked in this one—not with four starters potentially playing their last home game. I’m picking Pitt in a surprisingly lopsided game.

Race for the Coupons

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

DeJuan Blair - 9

Sam Young - 9

Levance Fields - 4

Jermaine Dixon - 3

Brad Wanamaker - 2

Tyrell Biggs - 1

Aston Gibbs - 1

Quote of the Week

“I learned that if you’re selfish and don’t play defense and don’t play hard, then you’ll [lose],”

                                                                           - DeJuan Blair

Shameless Plug of the Week

If you’re looking for a funny TV show, check out Flight of the Concords Sunday night on HBO. No other show on TV provides magic like this.


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