Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Game 31: Pitt 83 Clemson 78 OT

It finally happened.  Pitt did it.  They finally caught a break, and it was everything I hoped it would be.  K.J. Daniels gave Clemson an early 19-17 lead.  This continues the recent trend of Pitt giving up a lot of points to players who go by initials ending in J.  Pitt's season will inevitably end at the hands of T.J. McConnell and Arizona...or Tyler Ennis somehow.  Daniels had 24, but he had to work for it (18 shots).  The entire game was a blur.  Clemson led comfortably for the majority of it.  Pitt did tie it at 56 on a Patterson jumper, but Clemson took control again.  With 13 seconds, Clemson hit a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 5.  The game was all but over for Pitt.  They'd need a miracle.  They got one.  Robinson dribbled down the court and threw up a leaning, contested three-pointer that barely got the rim.  The ball was knocked out by Clemson with 4.4 second left.

Pitt is down 5 with 4.4 seconds left.  They have the ball, but even if they were fouled shooting a 3 and made the free throw, they'd still lose.  Pitt's season was hanging in the balance.  The NIT wolf was lurking.  A loss to Clemson would force Pitt to have a very good ACC tournament to get an at-large bid.

"I don't believe that's going to be enough time," said the announcer.  Robinson inbounds to Patterson who quickly buries a three with only two seconds going off the clock.  Pitt called timeout.  They couldn't let Clemson inbound the ball because with one dribble the game would be over.

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I yelled so loud whenever that shot went in.  My fiancée might actually be partially deaf right now.  I'm sorry.  On a side note, finding the accent mark to type fiancée is a pain in the ass.  You know what's easier to type?  Wife.  I assure you the ease with which this new title can be typed is not the only reason I'm getting married.  Anyway, being the cynical Pitt fan that I am, I managed to convince myself that it was still in his hands after the first few replays.  Pitt's lost twice on last-second shots by the other team so it only seemed fitting that they would lose because they themselves couldn't get off a last-second shot in time.  It counted though, and Pitt scored the first seven points of overtime to take control.  It was their first lead since early in the first half.  Clemson pulled to within 3 with under 20 seconds left, but Wright made two more free throws to ice it.  Pitt moves to 4-0 in overtime games this season so basically all they have to do is get through regulation tied and they'll be golden.  Let's give some grades.

Lamar Patterson - Patterson was huge all afternoon.  He had 30 points on 10-19 shooting (5-9 from deep) including the three at the end of regulation and another that opened the OT scoring.  He made up for some poor play down the stretch.  He had a turnover and missed two shots with Pitt down only 2 (and then 4) in the closing minutes.  He still had 30 points, so I can't give him anything other than an A for this effort.

Grade:  A

Cameron Wright - Wright had the two game-clinching free throws I mentioned earlier to finish with 16 points.  He also had four steals, which means I can bring back this picture.

Grade:  A

Michael Young - He had 7 points, but he didn't do anything the last 23 minutes of the game.  He also missed two free throws in the final minute of overtime that could have put the game out of reach.

Grade:  C

Talib Zanna - He had a double-double, but he didn't score in the second half.  He finally reached double figures with a layup late in overtime.  He also fouled out.

Grade:  C+

James Robinson - I can't complain with 9 points, 7 assists, 2 steals and 0 turnovers with 60% shooting.  Sure he missed that three at the end, but it worked out alright for Pitt.

Grade:  A

Derrick Randall - He made a free throw and committed two fouls in four minutes.
Grade:  C-

I am truly busting out all the old pictures for this recap.

Jamel Artis - I don't remember much from him this game.  He had two baskets early in the contest.  One of them was a dunk off a nice feed from Robinson.

Grade:  B

Josh Newkirk - Newkirk came into this game having made 7 three-pointers in a row.  He missed his first two threes in this one.  He only made one shot all game, but it was pretty important.  The pump fake was entirely unnecesary on the final shot, and I'm so glad that he still got it off in time.  If that hesitation cost Pitt a tournament bid (and it very well could have) that would have been a tough pill to swallow for the kid.  Luckily, it counted.

Grade:  A+

Pitt plays Wake Forest in the 2nd round of the ACC Tournament at 2:00 tomorrow.  Thankfully, Wake beat Notre Dame in the first round so Pitt didn't have to deal with them again.  Pitt's right on the bubble.  ESPN has them as a 10th seed, CBS an 11th, and Yahoo a 12th.  If they lose to Wake, they're out.  They'll probably have to win tomorrow and beat UNC on Friday to clinch an at-large berth.

Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Game 30: Pitt 67 T.J. Warren 74

Pitt couldn't stop T.J. Warren.  He actually only had 41 of NC State's 74, but that was still enough to shatter the Pete scoring record.  Chris Quinn had 37 for Notre Dame back in 2006, but Pitt won that game 100-97 in double overtime.  I can't even be mad at Warren.  Pitt tried everything, and he was just unstoppable.  Plus, any time you erase this guy from the record book it has to feel good.
Aliens?
Pitt led by as many as 13 in the first half, but they couldn't pull away.  Warren gave NC State the lead for good at 48-46 almost midway through the first half.  Pitt got to within one on numerous occasions, but Warren answered them each time.  After dominating the glass against Notre Dame, Pitt couldn't buy an offensive rebound.  NC State had 16 second chance points to Pitt's 0.  Warren shot 16-22 for the game, so it's not like his 41 points came on a barrage of 3's.  He made mid-range jumpers, layups, dunks, free throws, and even the occasional 25-foot 3-pointer with the shot clock about to expire.

In his final performance at the Pete, Patterson had 17 points on 4-12 shooting.  Zanna had 11 points and 9 rebounds but he was a non-factor.  The MVP goes to Josh Newkirk who had the game of his life in a losing effort.  He had 20 points on 7-8 shooting including 5-5 from long-range.  If Newkirk doesn't go nuts like that, Pitt loses this game by 20.  Newkirk's offensive game has come around in recent weeks.

That's enough about this game.  In the 30 minutes it's taken me to write this post, Warren has scored at least another 18 against Pitt.

Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

Game 29: Pitt 85 Notre Dame 81 OT

I am far behind on these recaps, but I wanted to try and get a post for every single game this season.  I'm almost there.  I didn't get to watch this game so I don't have a whole lot to say about it.  I did get to listen to the last few minutes of regulation and overtime so that was nice.  Here are some highlights.



  • Pitt beat Notre Dame for the first time since 2009 and won in the Joyce Center for the first time since 2005.
  • Notre Dame shot 9000% in the first half (really 76%) but Pitt only trailed by 4 because of a huge rebounding edge.
  • Notre Dame was down 3 with 17 seconds left.  They missed, but got the offensive rebound and made a 3 to tie it.  Robinson missed at the other end to win it.
  • Pitt held a 38-22 rebounding edge, won the turnover battle (16-9) and made 24-28 free throws.  This was just enough to overcome the Irish shooting 54% for the game, making 12-23 threes and making 23-27 of their own free throws.
  • Almost all of Pitt's scoring in overtime came on free throws.  They were 14-15 in probably their best performance of the season from the line.
  • Zanna had 17 points and 14 rebounds including 10 on the offensive end.
  • Robinson's shooting was awful (1-8).  Patterson wasn't much better (6-17).
Anyway, Pitt played and lost to NC State T.J. Warren on Monday.  That post is on its way.

Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Game 28: Pitt 66 Boston College 59

Boston College was a solid team for the better part of the 2000s.  They made 7 NCAA tournament appearances from 2001-2010 (including a Sweet 16 in 2006).  They had very good players like Troy Bell, Craig Smith and Jared Dudley.  All three had NBA careers and Dudley still plays for the Clippers.  Recently, though, they haven't had much success.  They already have 21 losses with three more games to play.  Unlike Pitt, they actually tried to play people even though they suck.  Their strength of schedule is 18th.

Pitt played an unbelievably sloppy game.  They had 17 turnovers.  I'm not sure if that's a season high, but it probably is.  They also allowed the Eagles, particularly Olivier Hanlan, to drive right to the basket.  When I say drive right, I mean actually to the right side.  I don't think they went to the left side of the court the entire game.  On the bright side, they out-rebounded the Eagles 33-18, shot 50% from the field and from deep, and made 79% of their free throws.  Pitt seemed very capable of winning this game by 20+.  They held double digit leads throughout the first and even held a 14 point advantage early in the second half.  Unfortunately, Pitt has a habit of shutting down when they have a lead.  We've seen it twice against Syracuse this year and a number of other times.  When Pitt gets a second half, their offense changes.  They stop attacking.  Jim Boeheim even said that Pitt probably would have beaten his team if they continued to attack in the final 5 minutes of both Syracuse games.  He's right.

View From the Zoo's Guide to Pitt's offense when they have a lead in the final minutes

1.  If you're open in the first 30 seconds of the shot clock, don't shoot.  We're trying to burn clock so we can get out of here with a win.
2.  Make sure you have the ball 25 feet from the basket when the shot clock gets to five.  This is a suitable time to begin running a play.
3.  Set a pick for Lamar Patterson who is holding the ball 25 feet from the basket.
4.  Lamar has the option to take a contested three-pointer or pass to James Robinson or Cameron Wright for an equally difficult three-pointer.  Bonus points awarded if this results in a turnover and no shot attempted.
5.  If the shot miraculously goes in, call time-out to set up your defense.


Without further adieu, here are the grades.

Lamar Patterson - He made 4-7 from three, but he didn't do much inside the arc (1-5 on 2pt field goals).  As a whole, Pitt only had 10 three-point attempts, which is right where that number should be.  They aren't an outside shooting team.  His only two-point basket came on a great drive.  I wish he would do more of that.  He also had 5 turnovers, which is just disgraceful.  It was an average night for Lamar.

Grade:  C

Talib Zanna - Even when Zanna has a great game, he finds a way to miss opportunities.  He shot 7-10 from the field and even made 7-8 free throws (started 6-6).  It was Zanna's first 20+ point effort since the Clemson game, which was an eternity ago.  When Zanna gets the ball down low, he never goes immediately up for the shot.  He pump fakes every time.  Dude, you are 6 feet 9 inches tall.  If you go up and try to dunk it, they have to foul you.  Why must every Pitt big man play below the rim?  Sometimes the fake works and Zanna gets fouled, but he usually misses the shot or the free throws.  He completed two three-point plays in this one so maybe I should just shut up.  Boston College stinks, but if Zanna plays like this the rest of the way, Pitt will win out.

Grade:  A

James Robinson - Robinson was invisible.  He didn't turn the ball over (good), but he only had one shot attempt (a layup in the final minute which he missed).  He also missed the front end of a one-and-one at the end of the game as well.  Zero points in 33 minutes isn't gonna cut it.

Grade:  C-

Cameron Wright - Wright shot the ball well (6-9) but he also had 4 turnovers.  He had a nice put-back off a Zanna miss for Pitt's first points, and Patterson found him on a nice cut for a basket in the second half.  He also blew a lay-up in transition, but Pitt retained possession when they were fouled going after the rebound.

Grade:  B

Michael Young - He shot 1-5, and his only highlight was a sweet pass to Wright for a lay-up early in the second half.  Wright is the best cutter Pitt has.  He knows how to get open.

Grade:  C

Jamel Artis - He had 7 points and was Pitt's only contributor off the bench.  He even made his only three, but he turned the ball over three times, which is about two too many for a forward off the bench.

Grade:  B-

Derrick Randall - He made a shot, which was nice.

Grade:  B-

Chris Jones - He only played three minutes, but managed to have one turnover for his only contribution to the box score.

Grade:  C

Josh Newkirk - Nuke Newkirk had a great drive to the basket for his only basket.  He also had 3 assists versus 0 turnovers in his 22 minutes which is always nice.

Grade:  B+

Pitt needed this win.  It wasn't the prettiest, but they snapped the three-game slide.  On Saturday, they face a Notre Dame team that's beaten them five times in a row.  Pitt hasn't won against the Irish since 2009.  Notre Dame is in the bottom third of the ACC, and their best player left the school in December due to academic reasons.  However, Brey owns Dixon, and Pitt hasn't won at the Joyce Center since I was 15 freaking years old.  I'll have to watch a replay of the game since I'll be at Pre-Cana until 3:30.  Pitt will win because their luck has to turn around eventually.

Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Game 27: Ugh: Pitt 66 Florida State 71

On December 22, 2003, I attended my first Pitt basketball game.  My mom took me to the Pete to see Pitt beat Florida State 63-56 behind Mark McCarroll's 13 points off the bench.  I had been a fan of Pitt basketball for several years, but somehow I never made it to the Fitzgerald Field House for a game.  Then Pitt moved to the Pete, became awesome, and tickets were a lot harder to come by.  Both teams were 10-0 coming into that game.  The Seminoles had a decent freshman named Von Wafer (real name Vakeaton) who would eventually get drafted in the second round the next year.  He had a 200 game NBA career before going to Europe.  Reading his wikipedia page, I found this gem.

"During a workout with the Phoenix Suns, Wafer reportedly was frustrated by the physical play from Jan Jagla, and responded by laying an intentional elbow to Jagla's nose, then walked off the court and ended the workout at that point."  Jan Jagla was a popular center at Penn State in the early 2000s.

Enough of the history lesson, it's time to talk about the present.  Pitt is awful right now.  They might lose every game the rest of the year.  We should drop basketball, demolish the Pete, and turn it into a giant free parking lot.  That way I'll have some place to park in Oakland.  I'm kidding, maybe.

In reality, this is what Pitt was supposed to be at the beginning of the season.  They teased us with the 16-1 (4-0 ACC) start, but they were still picked to finish 7th in the ACC with a .500 conference record.  They're 6th now at 8-6, and with the way they're playing now, that 9-9 mark might be right on the money.  They can't shoot the ball.  Patterson's unsustainable shooting percentage was carrying Pitt.  Once he fell back to earth, Pitt's offense fell back to earth.  He's now shooting 45%, and he shot 46% last season.  The loss of Durand Johnson also crippled Pitt's outside shooting.  Wright, Robinson, and Newkirk are all capable of hitting the occasional 3, but nobody does it well.  Robinson and Newkirk actually shot better than Durand, but neither of them is capable of exploding for a huge night offensively.  The game before he was injured, Johnson had 17 on 6-8 shooting in a 20 point win over Maryland.  His replacement, Chris Jones, just doesn't offer that at this point.  Pitt still has some issues, but having Durand's offense late in some of these games might have given Pitt 2-3 more wins.

I haven't given grades for a while so let's do that.

Lamar Patterson - With three minutes left in the game, Patterson was shooting 3-16 (0-7 from 3) and Pitt was down 5.  He would score the last 16 points for Pitt, while shooting a perfect 5-5 from the field (4-4 from 3, 2-2 FT), but it was too little too late.  Patterson was incredible in those final minutes, but Pitt was just awful for too long of a stretch in the second half.  After leading by 6 at the break, Florida State shot 1-11 to start the second half.  Unfortunately, Pitt only made 2 field goals themselves during that time period and Florida State never lost the lead.  Pitt did tie the game at 42 and 48, but Florida State quickly regained the lead both times.  The box score says Patterson had a huge night with 22 points 8 rebounds and 5 assists, but that was all done in a 3 minute span.

Grade:  C

Talib Zanna - Zanna was 1-4 from the field with 4 turnovers.  Pitt is not going to win any games when their only post presence shoots 1-4 with 4 turnovers.  In addition to the complete lack of offense, Zanna made two of the dumbest plays of the year.  Patterson hit a 3 with about 1:20 remaining to make the score 60-57 for FSU.  It's a one possession game, and there's plenty of time to get a stop.  Even if they score at the end of the shot clock, it would be a 5 point game with about 45 seconds to go which isn't insurmountable.  Instead, Zanna fouls a 77% free throw shooter 5 seconds into the shot clock.  Dixon had just called timeout to set his defense because nobody calls timeouts after they score to set up their defense more than Jamie Dixon.  What was the result of this timeout?  Zanna committing a foul immediately.  Florida State was shooting terribly in the second half, but you know what they were doing well?  That answer would be shooting foul shots.  They were 27-31 from the line for the game.  I swear to God, I hope that Zanna just made a dumb play.  If Dixon actually told him to foul in the timeout, it's the final straw.  I want Dixon fired.  I don't even care if he's the best option we could get.  I'm sick of these boneheaded calls.  I didn't even mention the 3 pointer Zanna took when Pitt was down 66-60.  Florida State actually missed two free throws on the prior possession, but Zanna felt inclined to attempt his first three pointer of the season.  He missed by 8 feet.  I'm not even exaggerating that.  The ball was 8 feet short.  Florida State missed another free throw on the next possession.  If Pitt gets a quick two there, they might have had a chance to tie in the final seconds.  Of course Chris Jones missed a three at the buzzer anyway, but a better shooter might have taken that if Pitt still had a chance to tie.

Grade:  F for Zanna, F for Dixon too

Michael Young - He misssed all four shots he took and only had two rebounds.  Pitt's inside game is non-existent at this point.  In the NCAA tournament, they say the 3 point shot is the great equalizer.  It allows teams made up of small guards contend with teams from major conferences because they can get hot from downtown.  Generally strong post players don't go to small schools.  Since Pitt has no inside game, you could say they are like a mid-major program.  Unfortunately, Pitt can't shoot either so they're pretty much screwed.  Maybe we can convince the NCAA that DeJuan Blair still has some eligibility left.

Grade:  F

James Robinson - He made both of his 3-point attempts, but missed his five 2-point attempts, which is just weird.  I can't really get mad at Robinson.  He's been so remarkably consistent this season.  He has improved in every single statistic from his freshmen year.
Points - 6.1 per game to 8.2
FG% - 36% to 42%
3P% - 31% to 37%
FT% - 79% to 81%
Assists - 3.5 per game to 3.9
Rebounds - 2.1 per game to 2.9
Steals - 1.0 per game to 1.4
Blocks - 0.0 per game to 0.4
Turnovers - 1.2 per game to 1.0
He's missed a few crucial three pointers late in games recently, but I'm willing to ignore that, given his across-the-board improvement.

Grade:  B

Cameron Wright - He didn't play a great game, but he was the only starter to shoot even close to 50% (5-11) so that has to be worth something.

Grade:  B

Jamel Artis - He didn't do much.  He made 1-2 from the field, but only made two of his five free throws.  In the first half he had a nice 3 point play, but he followed that possession with a turnover.  Then on the next possession he followed a guy who completed a 3 point play on his own.  He also had a chance to give Pitt a 49-48 lead, but he missed his second free throw.  I'm not sure that one point makes that much of a difference, but perhaps they play differently if they were able to get the lead back for a moment.

Grade:  B-

Derrick Randall - He played 10 minutes and didn't take a shot.  That's par for the course for him.

Grade:  C

Josh Newkirk - He made his only shot and it was a 3.  Earlier in the game, Newkirk committed a turnover and then a frustration foul.  The announcers talked about how it was a young mistake and that he would soon be taken out of the game.  After he stayed in at the next substitution, they said he could make two mistakes but probably not a third.  He buried that 3 on the next possession and they raved about Dixon keeping him in.  He made the third mistake a little bit later and was finally taken out of the game.  I like Newkirk, though.

Grade:  B

Chris Jones - He missed that desperation three, but still somehow had 7 points.  That's a great night for him.

Grade:  B+

Pitt plays at 7-20 (3-11) Boston College on Wednesday night.  Boston College won at the Carrier Dome to give undefeated Syracuse its first loss (Syracuse has since lost to Duke as well).  The Eagles celebrated that win by losing by 27 to Miami.  I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen in that one.  Pitt could win by 30, lose by 30, win a close one, or lose a close one.  I don't know anymore.

Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Game 26: Pitt 71 North Carolina 75

The last time Pitt played a meaningful basketball game against North Carolina was about 9 months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  The 1941 NCAA tournament featured 8 teams from all over the country.






Anyway, Pitt held Glamack to only 9 points (he had scored 45 earlier that season against Clemson), and Pitt won 26-20.  It remains the lower scoring NCAA tournament game in history.  Pitt would lose 36-30 to eventual champion Wisconsin in the next round.  That game would be the 3rd lowest scoring game in tournament history.  Both North Carolina and Pitt made their NCAA tournament debuts in 1941.  Since then the Tar Heels have won 5 National Titles, made 18 Final Fours, and have 44 tournament appearances.  Pitt hasn't been back to the Final Four since.  In fact, North Carolina's entire NCAA tournament history can be traced back to that disappointment in 1941.  If they hadn't suffered such a disappointing defeat to Pitt, maybe they never become the program they are today.

You're welcome, North Carolina.

Anyway, North Carolina would beat Pitt the next seven times they played them (the last in 1996) before yesterday.

Pitt had absolutely no answer for James Michael McAdoo.  He had 24 points and 12 rebounds.  Marcus Paige, a 31% 3 point shooter, made 5-6 because Pitt.  North Carolina broke open a close game and led by 12 with 8 minutes left.  Somehow, Pitt didn't quit, probably because they wanted to find a new way to disappoint me.  Pitt got within 3, but missed an opportunity to get closer when Wright missed a jumper.  A few possessions later, Patterson hits two free throws with 44 seconds left to cut the lead to 4.  UNC inbounds and after a few passes, McAdoo is holding it.  Pitt tries to steal.  For as great a game as McAdoo played, he is still a terrible free throw shooter (52% for the year 2-7 in the game).  Pitt doesn't foul him, though, they instead wait until Marcus Paige (90% free throw shooter) gets the ball back.  Paige makes 2-2 obviously.

Things started to change for Pitt.  Robinson missed a layup, but Artis was fouled.  He made both (74-70 UNC).  On the inbound, Robinson knocked the ball loose to Artis who was fouled again.  He made the first but missed the second.  In the scramble for the loose ball, a UNC player stepped on the end line.  Pitt ball with a chance to tie.  Could the Panthers finally be getting some good luck?  Maybe this would be the game where the breaks went Pitt's way?

In a word, nope.

Robinson missed a layup (a frequent occurrence it seems), but Pitt got the offensive rebound.  Patterson for threeeeeeeeeeeee...missed.  Zanna comes up with the offensive rebound.  Oh my gosh, there's still time to kick it back out for one last 3 before time expi- what is Zanna doing?  He's trying to get the quick two, there's no time left.  He misses a layup.  UNC rebounds and is fouled.  They missed the first, intentionally probably, because they wanted me to think that Pitt could rebound a second miss and tie the game with an 80 foot heave at the buzzer.  He made the second, Dixon calls time-out to draw up a super secret 4 point play that doesn't exist, and there you have it.

Pitt doesn't play again until Sunday night against Florida State.  That leaves plenty of time for them to invent new ways to lose.

Hail to Pitt,
J.O.

Game 25: Are you serious?: Pitt 56 Syracuse 58

Pitt led this basketball game for 31 straight minutes.  A Josh Newkirk 3 made it 11-8 with 12 minutes left in the first half.  With 2 minutes left Pitt led 54-48 at home against the number one team in the country.  On the last possession, Patterson threw up a desperation heave to beat the shot clock and Zanna Lorenzo Charles'd it with a putback dunk.  It really seemed like this was going to be Pitt's breakthrough win.  The Pete was rocking.  Ennis and Fair had been contained.  Pitt had a +10 rebounding edge.

It would be wise to never assume anything with this Pitt team.

C.J. Fair 3 pointer 54-51 Pitt (1:40 remaining)
Robinson 3 point miss (1:10 remaining)
C.J. Fair jumper 54-53 Pitt (0:52 remaining)
Patterson missed layup (0:15 remaining)
Patterson missed tip (0:15 remaining)

Ennis gets fouled and promptly sinks two free throws to give Syracuse it's first lead in over an hour.

At this point, I'm thinking, "Maybe it's Pitt's time for a huge buzzer beater."

It would be wise to never assume anything with this Pitt team.

Pitt brings the ball down, Zanna somehow gets fouled.  He's a 60% free throw shooter going to the line for 2 shots with 4 seconds left.  "He probably misses both," I thought.

It would be wise to never assume anything with this Pit tteam.

He makes both.  56-55 Pitt.  Syracuse with no timeouts has to get the ball in.  The Zoo is out of control, it's hectic.  Syracuse doesn't have a play, they'll probably have to throw up a 50 footer, and Pitt's going to win.

DIXON CALLS TIMEOUT TO SET HIS DEFENSE.

What the f*ck?!?

Okay, so let's look back at something.


There's no timeout here.  Dixon has nobody guarding the inbounder.  Fields is out in no man's land staring at him near the free throw line.  What is his job exactly?  Is it to deny the catch by Reynolds?  Jermaine Dixon is doing a great job of that by just holding him.  Reynolds runs past Dixon, the inbounder has a clear shot to get it up to another player who runs a beautiful hook and ladder with Reynolds to allow him to get past another defender (Sam Young).  Reynolds is now past the guards in the open floor against two bigs (Brown and Blair).  Brown does all he can to not foul, but you know how that ends.

Flashforward to the Syracuse game.  Dixon calls timeout this time.  He's gonna put a man on the inbounder this time and make the first pass difficult.


Dixon again doesn't guard the inbounder.  Josh Newkirk, who is guarding Ennis, backs off him.  He wants to keep Ennis in front of him.  Cam Wright, who had been guarding Fair near midcourt, allows him to go by.  That's okay, Michael Young picks him up, but now Wright is in no man's land.  He tries to help on Ennis, who is now dribbling up the court with speed, but he can't foul, so he just stands there and lets him continue to go by.  Newkirk is doing a great job staying with Ennis, but a jump stop gives Ennis enough separation to get a shot off.  Wright tries to come flying in with a hand, but it's too late.  The 35 footer goes in and Syracuse wins.



I will give Pitt a little bit of credit.  They did improve their defense slightly.  Ennis had to take a shot from 35 foot.  Reynolds was able to get into the lane.  There was an extra second of time for Villanova, but that shouldn't make up that much of a difference.  However, I still do not get the idea of not guarding the inbounder.  That extra man gives you the opportunity to double, but the threat of fouling a guard coming with speed is too great.  Double teaming becomes useless in this case.  I would have put Michael Young on the inbounder, or possibly put Zanna in the game with his long arms.  That would have left Young to cover Fair.  If Young guards the inbounder, I would've put Patterson on Fair.  Fair can still shoot over Patterson (he proved it 30 seconds earlier), but it's close enough.  After the inbounds, Zanna's job is effectively done.  The play will be behind him in about 1 second, but really that's all you need from him.  Rakeem Christmas or Jerami Grant (two bigs) are not taking a last second shot.  You only have to worry about Ennis, Fair or Cooney.  It starts with trying to deny Ennis as much as possible.  He's the only player with enough speed to go the length of the floor in 5.5 seconds.  Once Ennis makes the catch and picks up speed, the rest of Pitt's defense is useless because anything close to contact is going to be a foul.  He finds a spot and buries the shot.

Ironically, Dixon should know to defend this play because he ran the exact same play with Gibbs.

Gibbs makes the catch, comes with speed, jump stops and buries the shot from almost the exact same spot as Ennis (other side of court obviously).  Notice how Providence also didn't guard the inbounder.

The only grade I'm giving is an F to Dixon for his late-game coaching.  In the Virginia post, I talked about some previous Pitt games that went down to the final shot.  Pitt won some and lost some.  That post is a little misleading, however, because I was able to name all the last second shots Pitt has made in the last ten years.  Gibbs, Ramon, Fields and Zavackas (if you count the 3 to tie).  That's it.  On the other hand, I neglected to mention at least ten other times an opposing player has hit a last second shot to beat Pitt.  Pitt's defense is superb for 39 minutes.  In the last minute, though, they always find a way to throw up on themselves.  I'm sick of it.  I should really stop caring, but I can't.

Hail to Pitt,
J.O.