"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.
When I daydream at work, there are some questions that I ponder more often than others. If I were a closer, what would I want my entry song to be? How much pot did the creators of Aqua Teen Hunger Force have to smoke in order to create that show? Is pooping in a mud bath like peeing in the ocean? If I end up killing one of my clients, how would I get it to look like he died of natural causes?
There is one question, however, that has been occupying more of my time than the others lately. How would one go about stopping Sam Young? Every time I think about it, I draw a blank.
The 6'6" senior worked very hard on his jumper this summer, and it is paying off. While his three-point percentage is about the same as last season, the degree of difficulty on the shots has increased.
Not only has the three-point line been moved back a foot, Sam is now playing small forward instead of power forward. As a result, he faces better perimeter defenders on a nightly basis, which leads to more of his jump shots being contested. With this transition, one would expect his shooting percentages to dip, but Sam has remained consistent with the jumper.
Since defenders have to respect Young's jumper, he is able to get them to bite on his world-class pump fake. Between his pump fake and raw athleticism, Sam can get to the hole at will, and once he gets there, his phenomenal upper-body strength allows him to absorb contact and still convert.
I don't have an answer as to how you stop Sam Young, and I am not alone. Nobody has been able to stop Young so far this season, and this week was no exception as Sam grabbed all the headlines, averaging 25.5 points on 19 of 35 shooting in two games against Duquesne and Vermont.
"The City Game" on Wednesday night featured the unveiling of Pitt's new alternate gold uniform, which appeared to be inspired by the Twix bar in Levance Fields' candy stash. Hideous does not do these uniforms justice. However, they are functional. Pitt had an astonishing 16 steals in the 78-51 victory over Duquesne. Pitt stole the ball on three straight possessions to open the second half and put the game out of reach.
Pitt does play great defense, but part of me likes to think that the Duquesne players had problems with the Pitt uniforms that were the same exact color of the court. Camouflage, baby!
Saturday night saw Pitt host an overmatched Vermont team. Pitt held Vermont to 27 percent shooting and won the battle on the boards decisively en route to an 80-51 victory. A nice story from this one was the performance of freshman guard Ashton Gibbs.
Gibbs has appeared a little gun-shy of late, having not attempted a field goal in any of his last three games. Against Vermont, Gibbs showed off the three-point stroke that made him a coveted recruit, scoring 11 points, including 3-of-5 shooting from distance, in 15 minutes of play.
Ashton Gibbs is competing with Trevon Woodall and Brad Wannamaker for playing time off the bench in the backcourt. Nobody out of this group has really played well enough to separate themselves from the other two players. If Gibbs can use the Vermont game to build momentum going forward, he will certainly see more playing time and give Pitt the dead-eye perimeter threat that they lack.
With finals week upon us, Pitt will not be in action until the weekend, when they host defending America East Champions Maryland-Baltimore County. The Retrievers are led by senior forward Darryl Procter, who averages 18 points and nine rebounds per game. This game would appear to be a mismatch—anything less than a double-digit victory for the Panthers would be disappointing.
The game against UMBC will once again be another opportunity for Jamie Dixon to give his bench players quality minutes. Players to watch in this one will be Tyrell Biggs and Gary McGee. Pitt has yet to find a way to maintain continuity when DeJuan Blair is on the bench, so look for Jamie Dixon to give both of these players minutes at center in order to get them ready for the Big East grind.
Until next week, Hail to Pitt!