Tag Archives: Dante Taylor

So, Pitt’s Been Winning Some Basketball Games

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Pitt58 Marquette 51

Pitt 70 Villanova 65

Wow.  This Pitt team sure is a lot of fun to watch.  Before I could even blink (or get in front of a computer for an extended period of time), the Panthers rolled off two more really quality wins.  I’m very impressed with how much the level of play has improved over the season so far.  Both of these wins come against teams that have typically had Pitt’s number, and with good reason.  Both are very quality teams year in and year out, and more to the point both teams are very small, quick and scrappy.  They’re able to give the traditionally slower and more physical Pitt teams a hard time with their athleticism on the offensive end, and they use their quickness on defense and rebounding to keep up.  But this is a different Pitt team than usual.  It’s much more guard-oriented and athletic than past teams.  They still play defense, but they’re a lot quicker and not as strong as past teams.  That means that Pitt can neutralize that quickness from Marquette and Villanova a little bit and win with their consistency and defense.  We saw this earlier in the year against Louisville.  The Cardinal’s press always gave Pitt fits.  But this year the Panthers were able to handle that pressure much better, and ended up winning the game.  So that’s one takeaway, but I’ve got more:

  • Gary McGhee played fantastic in both of these games.  He had 10 points and 5 rebounds against Marquette, and 7 points and 10 rebounds against Villanova.  Now, this needs to be put in perspective a little bit.  Both Marquette and Villanova are both guard oriented teams, and it’s easy to dominate guys you’ve got by a few inches.  But there are two things to take away from this and be pleased with.  First of all, Gary was quick on defense.  He didn’t let the smaller more athletic centers dominate him.  That’s a big part of what happened against Georgetown (Greg Monroe), Seton Hall (Herb Pope) and West Virginia (Da’Sean Butler).  The second thing I was pleased with was how much more aggressive he was playing.  He was taking the ball up strong to the hoop, and he was grabbing tough rebounds with both hands.  That’s what I’ve been looking to see (and what I hope to eventually see out of Dante Taylor).  Now, I’d like to see him do that again against some bigger competition to make sure he wasn’t just feasting on guys he could literally look down on and then I’ll be thrilled.
  • Dante Taylor.  He had 6 points against Marquette, then got in too much foul trouble against ‘Nova to be a factor.  While the 3 open dunks were a game changer, and they showed he could get himself open, I still wasn’t thrilled with his overall performance over these two games.  He missed a lot of defensive assignments in both games (a LOT), and it’s a big reason for the foul trouble.  I’ll give him a pass since he’s a freshman, but I see this as a bigger problem than the physical strength troubles.  He’s not grasping the system quite yet, and I hope the light goes on sooner rather than later.  As a side note, I’m sure the light will eventually go on.  It always does.  I’m not concerned with the long-term progress of Dante.  He’ll be fine.  But I’m kind of hoping against hope that he gets it before the end of the year because we could really use some more production from the frontcourt.
  • Jermaine Dixon was a huge factor in these wins, but rather quietly because he made his biggest contributions on defense.  He really put the clamps down on Scottie Reynolds for Villanova and Acker and Cubillan for Marquette.  I don’t think we would have won either game without him.
  • Rebounding!  Pitt won the rebounding edge against both teams, and pretty handily against Villanova (though a lot of that had to do with ‘Nova’s defensive schemes).  They allowed 11 offensive rebounds to Marquette which kind of irks me, but other than that I’m impressed.
  • Brad Wanamaker had 14 points over these two games.  That’s great, but coupled with 11 turnovers it’s not so great.  But that’s Wanamaker in a nutshell: Brad giveth, and Brad taketh away (or giveth away if it’s a basketball).
  • There was really balanced scoring in both of these games.  It’s getting to be part of Pitt’s reputation: lots of people can hurt you.  I guess it’s a philosophical debate whether you want one go-to guy or a bunch of capable scorers.  I’m not quite sure what side of the fence I’m on quite yet.
  • Travon Woodall continues to play very well.  He had 11 points 5 assists and 2 turnovers over these past two games.  Maybe the light switch has finally gone off for him.  I really hope so.  More depth is never a bad thing.

Next up is Notre Dame tonight.  Harangody is not playing.  So there goes the opportunity for McGhee to show what he can do against better competition.  It should  still be a great game, and South Bend always has a good atmosphere.  I’m excited to watch.

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Pitt 98 WVU 95 (3OT)

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

Wow.  Just wow.  I wrote a post a while ago about the top 10 games in the Pete (you can read it here).  Well, we have a new #1 by a landslide.  That was one of the best college basketball games I’ve watched, on TV or in person.  As usual, some thoughts:

  • Rebounding should have cost the Panthers the game.  It was pretty tight statistically, but Pitt was getting killed on the glass.  At the end of regulation, WVU had a 14 rebound advantage, and that’s after Pitt had grabbed a few towards the end.  In the overtimes, Pitt out-rebounded WVU by 7.  You bet that’s why they were in control most of the way.
  • WVU missed 3 of 5 free throws in the final minute  of regulation which started with a 7 point Mountaineer edge.  It was eerily similar to Louisville’s collapse.
  • Speaking of that 7 point lead with a minute left, I saw a lot of people leaving at that point.  I noticed a lot of those seats re-filled during the overtime (I guess they caught the game in the lobby and turned back), but there were still some empty chairs left.  They deserve it.  I’ve never gotten leaving early, and I hope this teaches them a lesson.  Oh, well.  It’s one more thing to add to the legend of this game.  You have to love when a team is counted out by their own fans, then proceed to resurrect themselves like Lazarus.
  • All those rebounds?  They led to a 15-0 second chance points lead by the Mountaineers at the end of regulation.  More proof that Pitt got away with one here.
  • Huge bench night for Pitt.  The Panthers got 34 points from the reserves.  Travon Woodall looked good.  Gil Brown had a lot of those points even though he’s a de-facto starter.  J.J. Richardson had another solid game.
  • Speaking of J.J., he definitely out-played Dante Taylor again.  Big time.  Dante’s an amazing athlete, but he just doesn’t have the hunger to play the low post (and before you say anything, I’m not sure he’s quick enough to play PF in the Big East, either).  He just needs to get stronger in the off-season.
  • I’ll expand on Travon, as well.  He had a great game at the point.  12 points, 6 assists, and 0 turnovers in 31 minutes.  That sure looks more like a PG line to me.  If he can do that consistently, Pitt will be in great shape.  But consistency is the key.
  • Good job by the Zoo.  I heard a few rumblings of a bulls**t cheer, but that never caught on.  Besides that, there was only a few go home mountaineers chants (some kids switched the last word around to involve a word that starts with q, but they were also drowned out by the kids saying it the better way).  I can live with that.  Overall the kids were loud, intimidating, and positive.  I’m proud to have them representing my school.  I’d like to think that the jerk who threw stuff in Morgantown is very unhappy somewhere tonight.  It’s a good thought.
  • Ashton Gibbs missed a free throw to ice the game at the end of the first overtime, but got redemption by draining two in the third to make WVU try for a 3.  You’ve gatta love that.
  • Brad Wanamaker had a huge night going 7-14 from the field and 9-11 from the free throw line.  He did have 4 turnovers and 3 minute stretch at the beginning of the second half with a bunch of mistakes, but I’ll take this performance any day.  He was one of the few guys who wasn’t afraid to drive on this Mountaineer defense.
  • WVU is a better team than Pitt this year, but Pitt had the desire down the stretch.  I love that.  I need to see it every game.

Great win.  I’m all smiles tonight.  Pitt parlayed the Syracuse upset into a few more quality wins.  They’re going to have an opportunity to do the same thing coming up against Marquette, Villanova and Notre Dame.  I’d love to see a repeat performance.

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Pitt 51 WVU 70

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Game Recap

Watching the highlights on ESPN and reading a few headlines, it seems like the theme for the game is that WVU won a game last night where tempers flared.  Well, I’m not sure that I really agree with that.  The fan’s tempers flared, but I didn’t see much on the court.  There was the one play that halted the game for a while, but that was more guys tripping over each other than anything.  And the actual game was no more physical than a lot of games I’ve watched in the Big East.  Emotional, yes.  Overly physical with tempers?  Not so much.  The actual game itself was a little more complex.  Pitt was right in it until about 8 minutes left when they just lost their shot.  I have no idea what happened there.  I didn’t see a defensive switch by the Mountaineer or anything else that would explain it.  Unfortunately, the cold shooting really did in Pitt because the other aspects of the game were all going to WVU.  If the Panthers would have won this game, it would have been a steal.  But they didn’t win, and they didn’t really deserve to, either.  Some other thoughts:

  • I’ve never seen Gary McGhee look so bad with layups.  Honest to goodness.  He was 3 for 11 shooting without taking a shot from outside 3 feet.  My theory is that he was juiced with adrenaline coming in, threw a few over the rim, and was trying to compensate and find his touch for the rest of the game.  But that’s just a theory.  I’m not in his head.
  • I think the biggest reason Pitt lost was the lack of rebounding.  Yeah, there was a big rebounding deficit overall, but to get a clearer picture of the problem you just have to look at the offensive rebounds the Panthers allowed: 17.  WVU is a good rebounding team, and they’re especially good on the offensive glass, but 17 is ridiculous.  This has got to stop or Pitt’s going to struggle to win every single game from now on.
  • WVU shot better from beyond the arc than they did from inside.  I have a feeling its because most of those were wide open attempts.  It’s not a pattern yet, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
  • Lots of people have weighed in on this, but the WVU fan behavior was inexcusable.  The student swearing is bad, but not the worst thing ever.  Pitt’s gone through the same troubles as does just about every school in the country with a student section.  But throwing things just can’t happen.  Ever.  What’s worse is this is not the first time this has happened from WVU fans, and it doesn’t seem to get better.  Both the fans and the administration have to do a better job of creating an atmosphere where that’s not tolerated.  I know you want to make the arena intimidating, but take it from a Pitt fan who has watched a game in Morgantown: the Colosseum (and Mountaineer Field.  I’ve been there too) is already intimidating because its filled with real down to earth people that aren’t afraid to cheer and make noise.  You don’t have to make it a dangerous place to be intimidating.
  • J.J. Richardson played fairly well considering the circumstances.  He got a lot more minutes than Dante Taylor who looked lost out there again.  I’m wondering if he’s starting to overtake him on the depth chart.
  • Anyone still think Gilbert Brown should start ahead of Nasir Robinson?

I guess the thing to remember is that it was a great team across the court (#6 in the country, remember?) and the Panthers hung tough for a while.  They had some spurts of doing the right thing, so I know they’re capable.  Pitt just needs to gain some consistency, which is not surprising considering how young they are.  The only real consistent problems with this team are the reliance on shooters and the lack of rebounding (both are fairly big problems, I know).  Who knows, if Richardson keeps bouncing up the depth chart, maybe he can bring a little bit of a solution to both problems.  Until then, I guess Pitt fans just have to cross their fingers and hope that this team has some more great shooting nights (a la Syracuse) and gets enough wins to get a tournament spot.

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Pitt 61 Seton Hall 64

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

Ouch.  This one stung.  This was the first game of the year that we lost where it was widely expected that we’d win.  I mean Indiana wasn’t a good team, but we were still in our young, inexperienced, two great players not playing stage.  And everyone realizes that Georgetown and Texas are great teams.  But I think it was universally expected that Pitt would beat Seton Hall.  I think some people who knew what they were doing were saying that this could be a trap game.  The Pirates have one of the best offenses in the conference.  But they also have one of the worst defenses.  I’ll admit I expected us to score in the 70’s and win.  So what happened?

Well, lets examine Pitt’s defense vs. Seton Hall’s offense first.  As I mentioned, the Pirates have a fantastic offense.  They’ve got a ton of guys who can shoot, they’re very very athletic, they’re deceptively experienced (most of the team are transfers), and they were hot coming off a defeat of Louisville.  Things were going our way out of the gate with Seton Hall’s best offensive threat, Jeremy Hazell, in almost immediate foul trouble.  He ended up with 9 points.  So he wasn’t it.  When you really look at the score sheet, one thing pops out at you: Seton Hall’s frontcourt scoring.  The guards combined for 27 points.  The forwards had 37 (with one less player contributing).  Worse yet, the starting forward combo of Herb Pope and Jeff Robinson had 34 of those 37 points.  So it seems like we identified the problem.  The troubling thing is that most of those were fairly easy buckets.  The frontcourt of Seton Hall was much faster/quicker/more athletic than Dante Taylor and Gary McGhee.  They used it to their advantage beautifully.  The really annoying thing was that we weren’t leveraging the size advantage we had in response.  Gary and Dante combined for 5 rebounds.  For one of them that’s bad.  For both of them, that’s inexcusable.  Especially against a team that’s not too great on the boards.  They also combined for just 6 points (all of them Gary’s).  If you’re so much bigger and stronger than the opponent, you have to post them up and rebound over them.  We got neither from our frontcourt.  But, still, the Pirates only had 64 points.  That’s not insurmountable by any means.  What happened at the other end?

Well, the lack of frontcourt scoring was a big detriment, but the biggest reason we lost was absolutely the turnover margin.  We ended the game with 20 turnovers (14 in the first half).  And it was very counter to Seton Hall’s season average (they’re only averaging a little over 10 a game).  You’re not going to win many games that way, especially when you only forced 10 at the other end.  Our shooting wasn’t great (35.3%), but it was good enough to win.  Because of the turnovers, we had 5 less shots than Seton Hall.  It was the difference in the game.  The only thing really keeping us in the game was the foul differential.  We shot 9 more free throws than the Pirates thanks to a couple of technical fouls.  We shot very well from the line and took the gifts.  That was one of the few bright spots.  Ashton lead the way with 23 points, but 15 of them came from a perfect day from the charity stripe.  He continues to be icy cold from the field.  I think defenders are clueing into the fact that he’s a good shooter and he’s hearing footsteps.  When he does have a bit of a window to shoot (which is rare), it’s usually very tiny.  Hopefully, this slump of his will get defenders to back off a bit and he can heat back up.

It was just a frustrating day, overall.  We played poorly.  We made a lot of mistakes.  We should have beaten this team.  But that’s the good news.  Seton Hall was not better than us.  There are some matchup problems there, but we killed ourselves more than they killed us.  That’s a positive message moving forward.  It’s also something to keep in mind when they make the return trip in a week and a half.

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Pitt 67 UCONN 57

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

You know, I always knew Coach Dixon was a great basketball coach, but I think he’s moved up a level tonight.  He has officially now performed a miracle.  He taught Gary McGhee to rebound!  Seriously.  I never thought it was possible.  What got into that kid, and can he bottle it and save it, please?  I’m not sure if it was being on the verge of losing his starting spot that got him motivated or if it were just the fact that another team was jostling and pushing him a bit and forcing him to concentrate.  That image above ran in today’s Post Gazette.  I think whoever put that together is a prophet because that’s exactly what happened to Gary McGhee tonight.  This was the first game in months that he has out-played Dante Taylor.  I ask again: what in the world got into that kid?

Gary having a game where he looked like he belonged as a Big East center was obviously the best news of the night.  If he plays like that from here on out, our prospects for the season just got a heck of a lot brighter.  But there was other good news.  This was obviously going to be a war of tempos.  Pitt has been very sucessfull against UConn in the past because they are very good at limiting transition points.  We did a good job of that again tonight.  Fran Fraschilla did an excellent job explaining why in the telecast if you were watching.  Long rebounds and turnovers are generally what starts most fast breaks.  Pitt took great care of the ball (only 12 turnovers against a defense that likes to get their hands in the cookie jar) and really worked to get the ball inside.  That’s it.  UConn is way to disorganized in a half court set to win that kind of a game.  A couple of extra little notes:

  • Pitt shot 85% from the free throw line.  Yes, Pitt.  UConn shot 46.2%.  That sounds more like a Pitt number, doesn’t it?  However, the difference between the two was 11 points (though we took 7 more shots).  That’s your ball game.  It’s one of the subtle advantages of the more backcourt-oriented game that we’re playing this year.  I’m not opposed to a small lineup, but there has to be one guy inside who can bail you out.  That’s why I’m so psyched about Gary taking a huge step up.
  • I showered praise on Gary, but Dante Taylor had a step in the right direction as well.  I wondered how he would respond to UConn’s physical play, and he did very well.  He grabbed a lot of nice rebounds.  He had some defensive lapses which prevented him from having an outstanding game in general, but I’m pleased with what I saw overall.
  • Haven’t seen any Chase Adams in a few games.  I’m a bit surprised.  He was tentative on offense, but he wasn’t a huge liability.  I’m wondering if he’ll see some time down the stretch to eat up some of the guards’ minutes.  We rotated 4 guards through 3 spots in this game.  That may wear them down after a while.  We also didn’t see J.J. Richardson at all this game.  First time in a while that’s happened, but I think that has more to do with the level of play of Gary and Dante than anything else.

Louisville’s up next.  They’re a very long an athletic team and they’re known for their trapping defense.  This will be a big test for our backcourt.  We historically haven’t done very well against the Cards.  Lets hope that changes on Saturday.

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Big ‘Ole Catch Up

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Well, it’s been quite a while since I got off my duff and wrote a post, and every team I follow had at least one game.  So to get on with things quickly, here are some thoughts I’ve had on each.

Steelers

Well, the hail mary pass to end the season was complete so to speak.  We won each of the last 3 games and held up our end of the bargain.  But, alas, the hole we dug was just a little bit too deep and there’s no one to look at but the man in the mirror.  When you lose to Oakland, Kansas City and Cleveland in the same season there’s no way you deserve to be in the postseason.  So the attention turns to just what went wrong and how do we move forward?

Well, what went wrong was fairly obvious.  You can blame the offense for their red zone failures this year, but we had a fourth quarter lead in almost every single game.  To me, its obvious that the finger should get pointed squarely at the defense.  Not just the defense, but the secondary.  I’ve said this in prior posts, but the biggest reason we lost so many games this year is that when we had a lead in the fourth quarter, teams were forced to throw on us and many of them had a lot of success.  Now, that’s not to say to say that the offense is blameless.  As previously mentioned, the red zone numbers for this team are ugly, and that doesn’t bode well for the future of the team.  I’d say that the main reason for this is the lack of a run game.  When you get in the red zone, there’s less room to work with, and it’s much easier for a team to cover you in a passing play.  I’ve said this as well in previous posts: the Steelers second biggest problem is the lack of balance in the offense.  Mendenhall has been pretty good, but we need to use him a lot more than we are.  And the only way we can do that is to get some 3 or 4 yard runs with consistency.  Right now its pretty much 20 yards or -2 yards.  That won’t work.

So what needs to be done in the offseason?  Well, first and foremost, we need to decide on which free agents to keep.  We have a lot of them: Ryan Clark, Casey Hampton, Brett Keisel, Justin Hartwig, Jeff Reed, Willie Colon and Willie Parker are the big ones.  Besides Willie Parker being an obvious release, you’ve got a lot of tough decisions.  Whomever is left will decide where we then go in the draft.  I’m not an expert on these kinds of things.  I haven’t the foggiest clue what the money or cap hit or anything will be.  I’ll leave that up to the Steelers.  What I will say is that for us to be a better team when we take the field next year, it will have to be a great effort by the front office.  We’re also going to have to revamp the secondary.  Not to be a pessimist, but things are not looking good for the Steelers as a franchise right now.

Pitt Basketball

Well, as opposed to the Steelers disappointment right now, the Pitt hoops team has been a very pleasant surprise.  DePaul at home was expected, but road wins against Syracuse and Cincinnati were big upsets and will look very nice come March.  All year I’ve been talking about how this team needs to keep improving and that has continued.  You see a lot less turnovers and the defensive lapses are becoming much more rare.  We’re also being much stronger with rebounds.  Those kinds of little things are what’s making this team play at a higher level (not to mention the return of some seniors).  Now, the big complaint I’ve had with this team is the interior scoring.  We’ve got no one who can post up.  Well you only saw it a little bit against Syracuse and Cincinnati, but Taylor and McGhee made a few moves down low.  They weren’t very good moves, and they didn’t score on any of them, but I’m encouraged that they’re trying.  Also, once again, I’m not talking about the wide open dunks and layups off rebounds.  I’m talking starting with your back to the basket and making a move.  They at least showed the potential so that maybe the guards will start backing off the perimeter a bit which will open things up for our backcourt.  I’d like to see them try some more.  Taylor especially has shown a lot of improvement.  He’s getting much stronger around the hoop, but he can still be even more aggressive.  Especially when he has the ball.  I haven’t seen any kind of hunger out of him yet.  When he shows some aggression down in the paint, he’ll be a phenomenal player.  I hear he’s on the verge of taking Gary McGhee in the depth chart.  I couldn’t agree more.  Especially because he’s got a much higher ceiling.  Gary’s just not a smart player at all, and he can’t seem to hold on to the ball.  I don’t see that changing at all.  He showed some flashes against some weaker opponents, but now that we’re picking on some teams that are our own size he’s disappeared again, and worse yet become a liability in a lot of cases.  Going into the season, I said that if Gary was a major contributor, we would be in trouble.  He’s done nothing to quell my fears.  If you look at the past two games, we’ve won because we can score a lot easier than we’ve been able to at any other point in the season.  That’s because we have multiple guards who can shoot and drive the lane.  Well, that’s fine.  But I’m scared of the time when more than one of them has an off night.  Or when a team doesn’t shoot 7% from beyond the arc like Syracuse.  But, overall, you have to be pleased with the progress of this team.  If we can continue this curve for the rest of the season we’ll be in fine shape.

Penguins

It’s been a big disappointment for the Penguins of late as well.  They tore off a 4 game losing streak complete with a pair of collapses and loses to inferior teams like Toronto, Tampa Bay and Florida.  The other loss was to New Jersey which is understandable.  I think it’s definitely reason to worry a bit, but you have to keep the long season in perspective.  The good news is that this is a long season, and just tonight we ended the losing streak against Atlanta.  The bad news is that it took the worst team in the NHL to break the streak and the style of the losses is troubling.  Besides the choke jobs, there are some other troubling patterns that are shaping up.  This team is getting smoked in the puck possession battle.  That’s because of two main reasons.  First of all, a lot of teams have noticed that we’re weak against the trapping defenses.  Now, the trap isn’t something you can implement overnight, but I’ve noticed a lot more pressure at the blue line in the past 5 games or so.  More troubling is that we’re still trying to dance into the zone and take too much on the individual.  We’re not learning.  It’s creating a lot of turnovers before we even get a chance to set up a play.  Second of all, and probably more troubling, we’re getting out-hustled.  I’m not sure if it’s just me, but it seems like we’re getting beat to loose pucks more now than we ever have before.  Just a lot of mental errors.  It’s very troubling, but it can be easily corrected.  Not by the coaching staff, but by individuals taking it upon themselves.  Maybe it’s just me that’s seeing this.  Maybe a lot of guys are looking forward to Vancouver,  but that’s got to stop.  But, like I said before, it’s a little 4 game stretch.  In the course of a season, that’s nothing.  It’s not time to panic yet.

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Pitt 66 Mount St. Mary’s 48

image from postgazette.com

Game Recap

Well, the news out of Oakland was that Jamie Dixon was really working his players this week.  The result was probably their best played game of the season yesterday.  Which isn’t saying all that much about this team.  That stats didn’t seem too bad.  We didn’t shoot the lights out (45.6%), but we weren’t as inept as we have been at other points this year (I’m really grasping at straws now).  We shot 23% from beyond the arc: once more not outstanding but we’ve been worse.  10 turnovers isn’t too bad.  We had a solid 37-26 edge on rebounds.  I think those shooting numbers can be improved as Jermaine gets some more playing time and Gilbert gets back into the swing of things, but this might be about as good as this team will get.  We still have absolutely no post production.  Gary had a decent game, but Dante had 2 points and 2 rebounds in 15 minutes.  Now, he’s been struggling mightily with the physicality of the college game.  That much is obvious and understandable.  And the refs in this one were being a little more loose (which is fine.  They were consistently loose).    So it shouldn’t be a surprise that he didn’t have a great day.  But a point and a board for every 7.5 minutes is not an acceptable level of production for anyone playing the center position.  I don’t care who you are, how old you are, or how highly you were recruited.  I’ll give Dante some credit.  He played a lot stronger yesterday than he has in previous games.  The improvement is visible.  But he’s got to get better.  Especially on the offensive end.

The main story line I saw was the pace of the game.  Each team had around 53 possessions which is obscenely low.  I’ll put it this way.  If each team takes the entire 35 seconds and takes a shot with a defensive rebound every time, there would be 34 possessions for each team.  We weren’t much above that pace.  It’s very obvious that Coach Dixon’s strategy with the hand he’s been dealt is to slow the game way way down, play good defense and hope that we make less mistakes than our opponent.  It’s going back to the original Pitt basketball that Ben Howland brought, but it’s probably even more exaggerated.  It’s not a bad idea with this group, but we’ve got to rebound and play defense better if we’re going to be successful at it.  It seems to be what’s being stressed because I’m noticing improvements in both areas that are stronger than what’s happening on the offensive end.  The number of defensive lapses against Mt. St. Mary’s was drastically reduced from the beginning of the season.  We got a huge rebounding margin that was partly due to the Mountaineers being a pretty bad rebounding team, and partly due to some better technique.  At the beginning of the season, we were taking rebounds that came to us.  On Saturday, we were going after and grabbing rebounds.  We weren’t letting them come to us, and we were grabbing them with 2 hands and holding them strong.  It was a fantastic sight.

Offensively, we’re still a mess.  We have no consistent scoring after Gibbs and Wanamaker.  Jermaine Dixon is starting to take some more shots (and therefore get some more points), but who else can step up.  Travon Woodall is more of a distributor, and his shot hasn’t been there for the past couple of games.  Chase Adams is may be too unselfish (never thought I’d say that).  Nasir Robinson hasn’t been the same since he dislocated his finger.  Gary McGhee has really improved some of his technique but he’s got the worst pair of hands I’ve ever seen (they don’t keep that stat, but I’m sure half of the entry passes to him are fumbled out of bounds).  We’ve already covered Taylor.  I sure hope Gilbert has been shooting around while he waits, because we could really use him putting the ball through the hoop a few times.  It’s obviously not the priority of the coaches, but if we could find some deeper scoring, it would go a really long way for this team.

So that’s that.  The defense and especially rebounding have really improved.  The offense continues to struggle.  We’re going to play some really boring basketball over the next few months.  I’m a little worried about Big East play.  I don’t think this team is ready at all.  But in about a week it’ll be here, so ready or not we have to go.  We really stepped up our game to play Texas.  Hopefully something like that will happen again.  That may be our only shot at a .500 league record.  Ohio is the last non-conference game on Tuesday night.  The Bobcats are a decent MAC team, and they love to run the floor (at least they have in the past, I haven’t seen them yet this year).  It should really be a challenge for the backcourt.

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