Pitt and the Pendulum
***The Panthers are hardly the most talented team in the league, but they get the most out of their players with hard-nosed, gritty defensive play. How else do you win three straight Big East road games against, two of them against ranked opponents (Syracuse and now UConn).
How do they do it?
"Good players is probably the first thing," said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. "The second thing is probably good players, and the next thing is probably good players."
Oh, and good coaching. Dixon is easily the early frontrunner for Big East Coach of the Year, and it's not even close.
***UConn doesn't exactly have an imaginative offense. Particularly over the last 10 minutes of the second half, the Huskies were far too reliant on letting Jerome Dyson or Kemba Walker drive to the hoop. And while Dyson made some big shots and scored 10 of his 14 points over the final 10 minutes of play, not enough other players were involved.
"If you had Jerome Dyson … you'd send him to the rim, too," Jim Calhoun pointed out. "He's pretty effective doing that. But that's late in the shot clock, when we haven't got anything out of our offense."
Stanley Robinson had 13 points by halftime but scored just six the rest of the way – none over the final 13 ½ minutes. He admitted afterwards that "at times" he gets frustrated not sniffing the ball enough.
"Sometimes," said Robinson, "I get in a rhythm and score easily, but … yeah, I think I do want more touches."
The 6-foot-9 jumping jack also grabbed just two rebounds on the night.
"That's almost bewildering to me," said Calhoun, "and the way he was playing, he wasn't going to get more than two rebounds … Stanley Robinson, soup to nuts, may be the most gifted kid on the court. He didn't look like the most gifted kid in the last 10 minutes, and that's a great time to be the most gifted guy."
Calhoun continued: "He's a great kid, but he's got to be a great player. And right now, he's a great talent who knows how to play basketball and knows how to score the ball, but he's got to do more than that. His man (Brad Wanamaker) scored 19 … if he holds him down to 12, maybe we win the game."
***Pitt is tough. Always has been, seemingly always will.
"That's what the Big East is about, out-toughing the other team," said Wanamaker. "In the second half, I think we did that."
After being out-rebounded by four in the first half, the Panthers easily won the battle of the boards over the final 20 minutes, 26-13. Pitt finished with 19 offensive rebounds – 12 of them in the latter half – as it spoiled some strong UConn defensive stances with second-chance points.
"We're not playing with a sense of toughness," said Calhoun. "At times, we stopped them stone, cold dead … and then we'd give them a second chance."
***Ater Majok made a "where-did-that-come-from?" low-post backdown hoop with three minutes left (to go with a two-handed putback dunk earlier in the half) and had four points and two blocks ini 10 minutes.
***Expect Pitt to move up several slots in next week's Top 25. They certainly will on my ballot.
"We haven't lowered our demands or expectations," Dixon said. "Nothing's changed for us. Other people may look at us differently, but any team that commits to playing together can be as good as they want to be."
The Huskies? Right now, they're perilously close to falling out of my Top 25. A loss at Michigan on Sunday and they definitely will.