I would have written this recap last night but it took me at least 9 and a half hours to get a bus back to Oakland from CEC to get my car to get home. I'm kidding of course, the wait was really only an hour. But anyway, I'm sitting in my classroom eating my pb and j lunch and talking about Pitt basketball. Could I use this time to plan next week's lessons? Nah, it's my lunch period I'm gonna enjoy it. In lunch related news, I decided to bring a pop-tart also because I didn't get a chance to eat a normal breakfast this morning. I don't know what flavor it is but it's damn good...now that I think about it, it might be blueberry muffin.
Everyone go buy blueberry muffin poptarts.
Pitt won 80-69. Duquesne led early 10-5, but then Pitt went on a 10-0 run and never trailed the rest of the way. Looking a this game three things stand out.
Dante Taylor didn't miss a shot from the field or the line and finished with 15 and 11
Pitt turned it over 23 times (3rd most under Dixon)
Pitt outrebounded Duquesne 39-15
It's really hard to get a feel for what this Pitt team can do. Obviously the turnovers are a concern, but it seems that every game when one particular facet doesn't go well (e.g. Gibbs shooting poorly, turnovers, etc.) There's always something else that bails the Panthers out (not including LBSU game, they were just outplayed in that one) Robert Morris game. Gibbs has a bad shooting night (6-17) but Zanna gets the epitome of a workman's double double with 10 and 15, and Wright has a career high 13 so Pitt wins. The teams Pitt is playing right now, they can overcome multiple poor performances and still win. In the Big East, if more than one or two things don't go the Panthers' way (bad shooting night from Tray or Ashton, turnovers, getting outrebounded, what have you) they'll lose. And of course looking even farther down the road, they'll basically have to play perfect basketball if they want to get past the elite 8 because of the huge gap in talent from Duke Kentucky UNC Ohio State, Uconn to Pitt. But for now we're playing teams like La Salle and Rider so getting wins is the only thing that matters. I'm not even worried about this team right now. Even the loss doesn't look that bad. Take a look at this article about the top 10 shockers so far this year. Where does the Pitt loss rank? 2? 3? Try 7th, so not as big a deal as some of the other events in cbb this year.
Onto the grades: (Wright didnt' play because he was suspended for violating team rules for one game)
Gibbs - After struggling from the field the past 4 games, Gibbs finally got back to form. Gibbs is known as a 3 point shooter, but you can tell what kind of night it's going to be for him by his shot selection. If he's shooting poorly, expect him to jack up a lot of threes and try to get points in a hurry. He'll still get his points, but he'll take more shots to do it. If instead he mixes in the occasional mid range j or drive, he'll keep defenses honest and get to the line more. Tonight he took 9 threes and 4 two's, making 4 and 3 respectively. He's still gonna take more threes because that's his game, but he did just enough inside the arc to give the defense something else to think about. On his 2 point shots he basically abused TJ McConnell (more on him later). Grade A
Woodall - Gene Collier has a cute article about why they shouldn't play this game anymore because nobody cares and the teams don't hate each other.
He's basically saying that back in the day the City game would be filled with fist fights in the stands and on the court and if you weren't bleeding you weren't trying (actually my Dad will attest to that statement) and now both teams are lovey-dovey and the Pitt and Duquesne students are arm in arm singing kumbaya during media timeouts.
I don't have a problem playing Duquesne every year. Pitt plays like 18 nonconference games a year, they can afford to schedule Duquesne in December. Does it matter that the Dukes might not ever beat Pitt under Dixon (they've lost 11 in a row for the record)? No not really, because Pitt usually wins all its nonconference games because they're an elite program. Pitt's dominance isn't a reason to stop the City Game.
As far as the other lack of hate thing, ummm whatever, Duquesne sucks.
Side note, the uniforms of the Duquesne cheerleaders and dance team made my soul hurt. The Dance team basically performed without pants and the cheerleaders appear to have fastened the top parts of their uniforms out of a few wash cloths. Say what you want about the Pitt DT and cheerleaders, but at least they dress classy and compared to other schools, modestly. Props to them.
I'm still in favor of playing the City game every year, just keep it at the school sites. Yeah I know they broke an attendance record at CEC but it was a pain in the ass for me to take a bus from Oakland and $10 is uber-expensive for a student ticket. Actually, now that I'm no longer living in Oakland and/or parked there as was the case last night, go ahead and keep it at CEC, it'll make it easier for me to see the team play when I can no longer rely on student tickets. (Already on the season ticket waiting list and have been for 2 years now - like a boss)
The whole point of that rant was to bring us back to Woodall who manage to get hurt on three separate occasions in the game. First he took a ball to the face on an errant bounce pass from McConnell. Then he got kneed in the groin on a drive. And finally hurt his leg (an injury that removed him from the rest of the game as he had to be carried to the locker room) No word yet on the severity of it, but I doubt he'll miss any time. He didn't appear to be in Ray Graham style agony when he was down. If he misses Saturday's game against Tennessee oh well, Pitt will adjust. As far as the game, Tray didn't play well. He shot poorly and routinely allowed McConnell to step into his passing lanes for easy interceptions and fast breaks.
TJ McConnell is a player. Long story short. McConnell is a local kid, played for his Dad at Chartiers Valley, scored unlimited points (34.5 per game to be exact) and his aunt is a women's basketball legend. So as is the case with all coach's sons, they know the game extremely well and can shoot the lights out. TJ is no exception, he was Duquesne's best player all night (even though some other joke led them in scoring). He's not quick on defense as evidenced by the slow-footed Gibbs beating him off the dribble but his anticipation was incredible and Tray just kept playing into his strengths with lazy passes. Grade for Tray B-
Patterson - He returned to the starting lineup after the 2 game suspension and promptly fouled out in 20 minutes. Add in the four turnovers and this was a very poor game from Lamar. In fact, Gibbs Woodall Patterson and Robinson combined for 20 of Pitt's 23 turnovers, the only starter not to give it away at least once was Birch. Grade C+
Robinson - the 6 turnovers jump out at you. After averaging 18 the previous 4 games, Nas only manged 3 and 7 against RMU and Duquesne. But he did manage to record my play of the game:
Play of the game: Sometime in the second half, Nas got the ball down low. What followed was an insane combination of fakes, spins, jukes that had his defender all over the place until Nas finished with the left hand and was fouled. He was doing his best Olajuwon impersonation. Video below, basically what Nas did.
Dante Taylor - He returned to action and may have just won back his starting job.
6-6 from the field 3-3 from the line 15 pts 11 reb 3 ast 0 turnovers and only one foul in 27 minutes. He more or less played the perfect game. He was crashing the boards (of course so was everyone else on Pitt cuz Duquesne is a very short team) but this was the most aggressive I've seen him play so far this season. Great to see. Grade A+
Birch - Birch started but he didn't do much of anything. He got beat down low in the first half a few times but this was Taylor's night. Grade B-
Epps - Epps played the last minute after Woodall was hurt but he didn't do anything. He's clearly behind Wright and Johnson in the backcourt so don't expect much from him this season as this was the first game in a while he's seen playing time and it was only because Patterson had fouled out, Woodall was hurt and the game as at hand. Grade: n/a
Zanna - After a dominant rebounding performance from Zanna in the previous game, he was pretty quiet tonight. Only played about 13 minutes, didn't do anything that really stood out. Grade B
Moore - Same thing, quiet game from Moore, 1-6 from the field and nothing that I really remember about his night. Grade B-
J Johnson - If all DJ Khaled does is win win win, then all [D.]J. Johnson does is hit threes hit threes and hit threes. What an asset he is right now. He's still a little nervous bringing the ball up when he's out there, but for now he's doing his best to help the team. When he gets an open look he's burying it. He's 8-12 from three this season. He's been the surprise of the season so far. Grade A
That's it. As a final note, some of the ref calls were jokes, when Pitt was inbounding after a made basket. Woodall bumped a Dukes player running down the court and was called for a foul giving the ball back to Duquesne. Then a little while later, there was some type of issue with who would inbound the ball for Pitt, and Gibbs had it, then gave it to Moore, but Gibbs was out of bounds but then stepped in bounds, but because he was out of bounds when he...I really don't know, it was on the other end of the court and I didn't have the benefit of hearing an explanation from the ref or the announcers, just know that Pitt turned the ball over on some joke call the refs decided to enforce cuz they were Duquesne homers.
Pitt goes to Tennessee on Saturday. You may remember them from the ass-whupping they put on as at CEC last season. Don't expect the same result. UT played out of their minds in that game and the two biggest contributors to that (Scotty Hopson who went for 30 I think and Tobias Harris) both left early for the pros (Tobias selected 19th overall and Hopson undrafted).
Until Saturday then,
And perfect timing too because a class is about to come in,