This Week at the Pete: Pitt Beats No. 1...Again

Paul SieversAnalyst IMarch 8, 2009

This-is-Our-House!” clap clap clap-clap-clap, “This-is-Our-House!” clap clap clap-clap-clap. No, it’s not the Oakland Zoo’s most original chant, but it is their most powerful. The simple four-word chant emanating from the top of Cardiac Hill has echoed across the Northeast like the cries of a ghost, haunting the other 15 teams in the league.

Sure, other teams in America will finish this season undefeated at home, but nobody has defended their home court quite like the Panthers this year.

Pitt finished the year going 18-0 at home in the toughest conference in America, extending their record in the Petersen Events Center to 115-10 all-time. Not only did they win all 18 of their home contests, the smallest margin of victory was 10 points. All involved should pat themselves on the back for this one: Jamie Dixon, the players, the Oakland Zoo, the women who work the concession stand, everybody.

On a personal note, I have a few people to thank this week. First, I’d like to thank the three Pitt seniors: Sam Young, Levance Fields, and Tyrell Biggs. These three played their last home game ever yesterday. They will finish their outstanding careers as the winningest class in Pitt history.

More importantly, all three players are on track to graduate with degrees from a phenomenal university. Sam, Levance, Tyrell, thank you. It has been a pleasure to watch the three of you over the past four years. We will always remember what you guys did for Pitt.

I also need to thank the good people at Bleacher Report and, who made Dan Dinunzio and I nationally syndicated columnists on Friday with our preview of the Pitt-UConn game. This was one of the greater thrills of my life; I feel like I am that much closer to achieving my dream.

But enough about me, let's talk about Pitt. Recap time!


The Week That Was

Mar. 4 Pitt def. Marquette 90-75

The Good

This was probably Pitt’s best shooting night of the year. Pitt shot 63 percent from the field.

The Panthers had five players in double figures as the most efficient offense in America ran flawlessly. Pitt had 34 field goals on 22 assists. More importantly, Pitt only turned the ball over 11 times after turning the ball over 41 times in their previous two games.

When the offense runs this well, the point guard usually plays magnificently, and this game was no exception. Levance Fields shrugged off a bruised tailbone in the second half to finish the game with 17 points on 60 percent shooting to go along with 10 assists. Levance gets the game ball.


The Bad

Not a whole lot to nitpick about, but Pitt needs to find a way to do a better job of challenging the three-point shot. Marquette went cold down the stretch to finish at 10-of-26 from distance, but the misses at the end had to do more with extremely tired legs than good Pitt defense. The Golden Eagles were 10-of-17 before missing their last nine attempts.


The Ugly

Cablevision’s DVR remote that places the fast-forward button about an eighth of an inch under the live button. I had to DVR as I was not able to start watching until about half an hour after tip-off. Sure enough, I accidentally hit live at one point while attempting to fast-forward though commercials, which sent my Father and me into full panic mode.

The result was five minutes of my Dad and I reenacting the computer scene from Zoolander and missing about a minute of footage. Damn you, Cablevision.


Mar. 7 Pitt def. UConn 70-60

The Good

On the heels of what might have been Pitt’s best offensive performance of the year against Marquette, Pitt played their best defense of the season against UConn. The Panthers held the Huskies to 60 points on 38 percent shooting. Every player looked sharp on their help defense. Tyrell Biggs played valiantly down low against Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet, making them work for everything down low.

Pitt got much better guard play this time around against the Huskies. Brad Wanamaker played his best basketball in weeks, coming off the bench for 13 points. For the first time in weeks, Brad was willing to drive to the hoop instead of settle for jump shots.

Levance Fields was far less flustered by UConn’s ball pressure. Levance, hampered by the back injury suffered against Marquette, gutted it out for 10 points and 12 assists. The General ran the offense wonderfully, as the team finished with 18 assists versus eight turnovers.

While Biggs and Fields made their presences felt on Senior Day, Sam Young’s last game at The Pete will be talked about for decades by the Panther faithful. Sam finished with 31 points on 13-of-23 shooting. Each acrobatic finish around the hoop was more impressive than the last.

It wasn’t all glitz and glamour. Sam was more than willing to battle in the trenches as he finished with 10 rebounds. On a day where few Panthers shot well, Sam was a one-man wrecking crew.

Simply giving Sam the game ball doesn’t do justice to the job he did against the Huskies. If there was a more impressive individual performance from a Panther over the past few seasons, let me know because I can’t think of one.


The Bad

Sam Young was 3-of-5 from three-point land. The rest of the team was 1-of-16. The Panthers are going to need to shoot better than that.

DeJuan Blair wasn’t really able to get it going in this one. He finished with eight points and eight boards. Pitt might not be able to weather another subpar performance from DeJuan this year.


The Ugly

My mother and cousin will argue with me on this one, but I think the Huskies are sporting some of the worst jerseys in the nation. Just too damn busy for my taste.

Wow, what a week! But dwelling on the past is never productive.


A Look Ahead

With the regular season over, Pitt will head to the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. While the ACC tournament is hailed as the best in the nation, I have a hard time believing it is better than my favorite sporting event. If you ever have a chance to go to “the Beast,” do it and thank me later.

As the tournament’s No. 2 seed, Pitt has a bye into the quarterfinal round, where they will face Rutgers, Notre Dame, or West Virginia. Pitt is 4-0 in games against these three schools this year. While West Virginia is the best team of that group, Pitt might have a tougher time matching up with Notre Dame’s perimeter-oriented offense. Either way, I think Pitt gets past the quarterfinal.

That will set up a third meeting between Pitt and UConn. I think UConn finds a way to get the third game, preventing Pitt from making their eighth Big East finals appearance of the decade.

I think that Louisville will win the Big East title this year. Their up-tempo style and 12-man rotation will be too much for anybody in a tournament whose champion has to play at least three games in as many days.


Race for the Coupons

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

Sam Young - 10

DeJuan Blair - 9

Levance Fields - 5

Jermaine Dixon - 3

Brad Wanamaker - 2

Tyrell Biggs - 1

Ashton Gibbs - 1


Quotes of the Week

“It‘s going to be a celebrity deathmatch.”

—DeJuan Blair on matching up again with Hasheem Thabeet

“Do I think we can beat Pitt? Yeah. But we’ve played them twice and we’re 0-2. So I don’t have any graphic evidence of that."

—Jim Calhoun


Shameless Plug of the Week

I will be at as many Big East tournament games as possible this week. I would like to set up some kind of informal event with the other Big East b/r writers. Please let me know if you are interested.