This was probably Pitt's most complete game of the season. Before I get into the game action, let's recap a little about what's gone on since my last recap.
Most importantly, Tray is out 5 weeks with a groin strain and abdominal tear. He won't need surgery, just rest. Obviously this is a huge blow because the injury will keep Tray out for the beginning of the Big East season. It's time for the freshmen to step up.
Pitt got a tough road win on the weekend @ Tennessee. Tennessee isn't particularly good, but beating any power conference team on the road can be considered a big win (unless that team is Depaul or something). Final score 61-56.
So Virginia Military, the West Point of the South. The only difference is that their students aren't required to serve upon graduation, so it's not really like West Point. Anyway they're called the Keydets, which is known as 'Cadets' with a 'Southern Twang'. So that's basically like some expansion football team wanting to call themselves the Stillers because it's Steelers with a southern twang.
Verdict: Cadets > Keydets
VMI normally plays basketball how Todd Graham wants Pitt's offense to play, high octane. Take a shot within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, they run and they gun. Think Pitt against UConn this year. There are over 300 division 1 basketball programs. Only 11 score more than VMI.
Unfortunately, for them, they shot about as well as Tino plays quarterback in the fourth quarter, which is to say a lot of misses. Pitt held them to 70.
First of all I missed the first 7 minutes of the game racing up to the Pete from my class at Posvar that ended at 7:05. Big time hustling performance from me to only miss that much, since I had to change out of my shirt and tie and drop off those clothes in my car.
Khem - Not a whole lot from Khem this game. There were really only 3 big plays he made. He had a put-back dunk after embarrassing himself the possession before by getting stuffed by someone and being knocked to the ground, then as he was lying on the ground the ball came down and hit him as he was laying out of bounds to turn the ball over. Then he had a block that went out of bounds. Something that Birch will learn is that sometimes it's better to block the ball in play so your team can get the ball instead of smacking it into the 3rd row. I feel that more than half of Khem's blocks this season have either gone right to the other team or out of bounds. Sometimes it's important to make a statement with a huge swat that gets the zoo pumped up, but Khem will learn how to block the ball and tip it to his teammates instead of fans. For a bit of basketball history, they say Bill Russell was an expert at this. Show the kid some old film. Grade B
Cam Wright - He's been getting mega minutes, but hasn't really shown much. Against Tennesse he was 0-6 in 25 minutes, tonight he was 1-4 with a couple turnovers and no assists. Going to need more from him to validate the PT he's getting. Grade C-
Nasir Robinson - Game Ball goes to Nas, went 19 14 and 5 with 0 turnovers. He was just making plays everywhere, shining glass. What a player. I could list all the plays he made, but I don't have enough time. Grade A+
Patterson - Not a good shooting night from him (3-10) but he was a playmaker. On two possessions in the first half he had a pair of incredible feeds down low for easy layups (one to Robinson, one to Taylor maybe) he was threading the needle. Tino, take notes. Grade A-
Gibbs - With about 10 minutes left in the game, Gibbs had 5 points and had missed everything all game. VMI was only down 15 and they felt like they could make a run. Then Gibbs decided to take their lunch money. There was like a 3 minute sequence when he couldn't miss. 4 of his 6 threes came during this span, and the life was sucked out of VMI. At one point, the shot clock was running down and Gibbs had the ball at the top of the key. Everyone in the building knows that Ashton was gonna try to get a pick and some separation so he could shoot the 3. An assistant coach for VMI was standing up screaming at his players (most likely to watch the three). Doesn't matter, Gibbs pulled up from 25 feet out and buried it, and the coach threw his arms up in frustration and sat down. Probably the moment of the night. Grade A-
John "Flipp" Johnson - He continues to impress. Getting big time minutes now in Woodall's absence, he continues to shoot the rock with Nowitzki-like accuracy. 3-5 from the field (2-3 3pt), made all 5 of his free throws and dished out 5 assists against one turnover. Back in their preview, the Pitt News said that Johnson was like Wanamaker (who by the way showed up at halftime to get his Big East Champs ring - to a really really loud ovation by the zoo, okay I get it Wanamaker was a nice player his past two years, but he really wasn't that good. Blair didn't get that kind of ovation last time he was there and he was a 1st team all-american. Plus he wore a Phillies shirt so he's a joke. Wow longest rant ever) But really Johnson is not like Wanamaker at all. Brad was a 6'4 tank that played a lot of his career at point forward. Flip is 6'1 if that. I mean I get it, if they wanna make the toughness comparison, but Johnson isn't pulling down 8-9 rebounds anytime soon like you could come to expect from Wanamaker. If anyone is Brad, it's Patterson. They have the most similar skill sets. Or even Wright since they're both big guards. Anywho, grade for Flip: A
Rivers/Nwankwo - They both played and missed a shot. Nwankwo had a pair of rebounds. Pitt was up by so much in the first half that Rivers actually got in before halftime. Grade - n/a
Zanna - Typical Zanna performance 8 points 7 rebounds. He benefited from some great entry passes from the guards. Dixon said he injured his ankle or he would have gotten more minutes. This was because Nas was in a bit of foul trouble. So Dixon had to put Nas back in, and as you know he was a beast. Grade B+
Taylor - 10 points and 7 rebounds from Dante. He even shot his free throws a little better. Dick Groat on the post game said he was impressed with how much harder Dante was working to get position down low. I'll agree with him there. Grade B+
Epps - Epps is so far in Dixon's doghouse right now, it's not even funny. He's not making good decisions when he's in there. He's been a mega disappointment so far. He missed all three shots he took (all three's). At one point, he took a ridiculously unnecessary contested 3 early in the shot clock because I think he tried to make a big shot cuz Pitt was hitting everything and he wanted in on the action. It was a brick and Dixon yanked him so fast (insert analogy here). Grade D
Moore - These are the types of nights JJ is gonna have to have if Pitt is gonna go anywhere. He picked his spots and finished the night with 16. I never felt like he forced anything, which can be the case with him sometimes. Grade A
Pitt plays Oklahoma State on Saturday
Over/under on Doug Gottlieb jokes is set conservatively at 14.5,