image from postgazette.com
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.
image from cbssports.com
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.
image from postgazette.com
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.