Tag Archives: Jermaine Dixon

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 66 Georgetown 74

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Game Recap

This was a fantastic game for about 32 minutes that was played at an extremely high level.  All that happened is that Pitt blinked first.  It happens.  We were kind of playing with house money at this point, anyway.  Look at it this way: we don’t have to play Georgetown, Louisville, Syracuse, UConn or Cincinnati again this year, and we only have one conference loss.  The rest of the schedule is much easier (well, relatively easier considering it’s still the Big East).  So I wouldn’t get down.  Georgetown is a good team, and Pitt was able to play with them.

The whole game came down to 4 minutes in the second half.  At 7:48, Jermaine Dixon had just hit a 3 pointer to put Pitt up by 2.  Both teams were shooting the lights out and playing ferocious defense.  The zoo was really getting behind the team.  It was basically a coin flip, but I liked our chances.  At that point if it got to a free throw contest you had to favor Pitt.  Then we just inexplicably went cold.  We went scoreless over the next 4 minutes or so.  In that time, we went 0-2 shooting (0-3 counting missing the front end of a one and one), had 2 turnovers, 2 fouls and most importantly were out-rebounded 5-2.  That two point lead turned into a 7 point Georgetown lead.  Down 7 with 3 and a half minutes left, we had to take some gambles, and you’re not going to hit the lottery twice in one week.  Even when Gil Brown broke the scoreless streak with a pair of free throws, we still struggled to shoot.  Over the last 3:30, we were 4 of 11 from the field.  I’m not sure why we cooled off, though.  Maybe it was that it was late in the game and our lets got a little wobbly.  Who knows.

The reason we were shooting the lights out and still only just keeping up with the Hoyas through the first 30 minutes was that their size was really giving us problems.  Monroe and Vaughn combined for 16 rebounds and 24 points.  Gary did very well defensively, but Dante looked overmatched at points.  And when Monroe had Gilbert or Nasir guarding him, he went straight to the post and abused them.  The big thing for Georgetown, however, was the outside shooting.  They were 7 for 10 on the day, and they were fairly contested shots.  When someone does that to you, you just have to tip your cap and move on.  I mean, all in all, it just wasn’t our day.  We went cold.  Georgetown was hot.  It happens.  I’m ready to move on.  Some random thoughts:

  • I thought for sure that Georgetown’s depth would come into play here.  Their 5 starters usually play about 3/4 of the game.  That was absolutely the case in this one (with the exception of Austin Freeman who was in foul trouble).  I kept waiting for them to wear down and they didn’t.  Kudos to them for being well conditioned.
  • Ashton Gibbs had a game he would like to forget.  He went 3 for 16 from the field.  It happens.  I just hope this doesn’t mess with his mind too much.
  • Gary played very well again in the post.  We wasn’t able to post up on Georgetown’s big men which would have been a huge help, but I’ve basically given up on that thought.  He was very good defensively, and put in 7 points on offense.  That’s better than nothing.
  • Some calls didn’t go our way at the end, but that’s not why we lost.  We lost because our shooting went cold.  I’ll admit that its very frustrating when the toss-ups stop going your way in critical situations, however.
  • Chris Wright killed us.  Now, Samardo Samuels almost killed us on Saturday, but that was because of a matchup problem.  Chris Wright was matched against our best defender (Jermaine Dixon) most of the game and still put up 27 points.  He was very quick cutting to the basket, and was 3-3 from beyond the arc.  Once again, all you can do is tip your hat to a great performance and hope you meet him again.  I don’t think he would be able to have a repeat performance.
  • I bet a lot of people will make a big deal about the 8 game win streak and 31 game home win streaks coming to an end.  Don’t be fooled.  That stuff doesn’t matter.  It’s just a good story line.  What matters is getting into the tournament.  The committee cares who you beat, not how long of a win streak you were able to put together.
  • Seton Hall is up next.  We’ve got a bunch of guys from Jersey on the team.  Hopefully going home gives them some motivation (I’m looking at you, Ashton).

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Pitt 66 Mount St. Mary’s 48

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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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2009 Big East B-Ball Preview

#7 Pitt Panthers

 

image from vuhoops.com

 

Previous Posts

#16 DePaul

#15 USF

#14 Providence

#13 Rutgers

#12 St. John’s

#11 Cincinnati

#10 Seton Hall

#9 Marquette

#8 Syracuse

Last Year In A Nutshell:

31-5 (15-3 Big East)

Lost in the Elight Eight of the NCAA Tournament to Villanova (were a #1 seed)

Coach: Jamie Dixon

If I Were Coach Dixon I Would Start:

Jermaine Dixon (G, Sr.) – Only returning senior on the team.  Will join the team in a few weeks after a foot injury.  Has a pretty good (but streaky) shot.

Travon Woodall (G, Fr.) – Redshirt freshman will play the point.  Looks to be a decent ball-handler, but how good he can be remains to be seen.

Brad Wanamaker (G, Jr.) – Will play the wing this year even though he’s a bit undersized for the position.  Can take it off the dribble or shoot with some range.  Should pick up a lot of the missing points from last year.

Nasir Robinson (F, So.) – Didn’t do much last year, but should be a fairly athletic power forward.  He’s able to finish around the basket, but his real value to the team will be rebounds if he can come up with them.

Dante Taylor (F, Fr.) – Didn’t get the start in the first preseason game, but I think he’ll win it eventually.  He’s a very highly rated recruit.  Has the size and strength to compete in the Big East right away.  Could be a better finisher around the hoop, and needs to be more aggressive on the glass.

Other Key Contributors:

Ashton Gibbs (G, So.) – He’ll see a lot of time this year at the 2 guard spot.  Takes good care of the ball.  Showed last year that he can stroke it from 3.

Chase Adams (G, Sr.) – Transfer from Centenary.  Quick little guard who can play the point.  Terrific shooter and lock-down defender.

Gilbert Brown (G, Jr.) – Depending on how well Wanamaker does, he should take over the wing when he gets academically eligible again.  Obscenely athletic guy whose best asset is his ability to take his man off the dribble.  Has a nice mid-range jumper as well.

Gary McGhee (C, Jr.) – Really hasn’t progressed as well as Dixon would have liked.  He’s got the size, but he’s really clumsy around the net.  It would be really nice for Pitt if he stepped up, though.

Lamar Patterson (G/F, Fr.) – Very athletic kid who can score in a lot of ways.  Needs to get a lot more aggressive.

Overall Thoughts:

It’s a little late, but after seeing Pitt play their first preseason game yesterday, I think putting them at #7 might have been a bit optimistic.  I think maybe the coaches had a better thought putting us at #9.  The frontcourt is going to be a work in progress.  The only returning minutes we really have down low are Gary McGhee and the limited exposure that Nasir Robinson got.  Dante Taylor came in as a McDonalds All-American and showed why last night.  He was dominant.  But, really, what else did you expect?  It was still like high school.  Everyone from Slippery Rock was a foot shorter than him.  Of course he’s going to pile up the points.  I think the more shocking revelation was the guard play.  We’re going to need a lot of scoring from the backcourt if we’re going to do much this year.  From what I’ve seen in the Blue/Gold game and the first exhibition, I’m not impressed.  There’s been every kind of mental mistake you can make.  I’ve seen bad passes, forced shots, confusion on defense, you name it.  That’s what worries me.  There’s some talent in these guards.  I think (or I at least hope) that these are just issues that will go away when they start playing together more.  It’ll be a long year if that’s not the case.

Traditionally, Pitt has been a team that grinds it out on offense.  We love those high percentage shots from 2 feet or so.  For the past couple of years, we’ve been hearing in Pittsburgh that a more up-tempo game is coming.  While that’s certainly been true to an extent (just look at the change in points per game over the past few seasons), Pitt still had DeJuan Blair down low to score points when they needed them.  That’s not the case this year, and we may see the Panthers really throw it into another gear tempo-wise.  The strength of this team is absolutely the guards, and we’ll go about as far as they can take us.  Defensively, we should still be the same team.  Weak on the perimeter, strong on the interior.  Chase Adams, Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker are all excellent defenders in the backcourt.  I can’t really tell how the frontcourt defense will shape up yet.  I’m not really worried about it yet, though.  Defense is always a priority in Pittsburgh.

Pitt is just one of the many teams in the league that you can write the same thing about: they’ve got a lot of new faces in the starting rotation.  Lots of highly touted recruits, a few transfers, just a sprinkling of vets.  It’s all about how they gel this year.  Usually, I wouldn’t think Pitt would have a prayer of being in the top half of the league with this kind of uncertainty.  The Big East is way too deep.  But this year with all the turnover in the league, Pitt’s still got a shot at the middle of the pack.  I wouldn’t count on an NCAA bid from what I’ve seen so far, but I think we’ll be playing at least a little bit of post-season ball come March.

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