Monday, December 28, 2009

Positive Big East Opener

Pitt looked fairly solid in a nice 13-point win over DePaul tonight in the Big East Opener. Plenty of good came out of it:

- The Panthers shot 46% from the field, while holding DePaul to 34%

- Pitt also shot 46% from three-point range to DePaul's 26%

- Pitt held their turnovers to 11

- Pitt won the rebounding battle with +8

The disconcerting part to me was that Pitt took control early, then seemed to struggle through the game until the final minutes. The play-by-play analysis backs this up as the Panthers led much of the first half by 10-15 points, but could never really expand on that lead. DePaul actually cut the lead to five with about 5:00 to play, but Pitt seemed to take over after that.

One big thing to note - it was widely accepted (including by me) that Brad Wanamaker's minutes would decrease with the return of Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown. He's actually seen a small INCREASE in minutes over the past three games. Nasir Robinson's minutes have been cut but Chase Adams appears to have really fallen out of favor with the coaches. He had a total of 21 minutes over that same span, including a season-low 3 tonight. Looks like the coaches are rewarding Wanamaker's solid play this year by finding him minutes despite the somewhat crowded rotation at SG/SF. I'm with the Dixon on this one as Chase has really done very little to warrant the number of minutes he's been getting - something I've alluded to in more than one post before.

If you didn't know it by now, Ashton Gibbs is really the go-to-guy on this team. He finished with 23 tonight, two shy of his career high. True, Pitt won't always look for him when they need a basket, but at this point, he's clearly their best player. And while the shots will come and go as he's a jump shooter, he is fairly consistent. He's struggled his way through some games, including a dreadful 9-41 stretch over three games, but for the most part has shot well.

Now for a huge disclaimer: I REALLY hate to say this, mostly because I hate when others do it and think it's somewhat of a way to twist stats to make them look better. The only reason I'm willing to make an exception in this instance is because he's a young player with more weight on his shoulders, he's bound to have streaks like that.

So here goes.

If you take out that stretch of poor shooting, he's shooting 47% from the field on the season. That's pretty incredible considering:

1. The amount of scoring Pitt has relied on him to provide (25% of the team's points)
2. Teams have to be somewhat keyed in him after he led the Big East in three-point percentage last year
3. He's mostly a jump shooter
4. He's a sophomore who played much less minutes last year

This isn't to say Pitt is going to rely this much on him all year. It's only to show that thus far, they have, and he's responded fairly well.

Other things to note - it was a game of 'seconds':

- Jamie Dixon moved into a tie for second-place in the all-time win column as a coach. Kind of a big deal.

- Ashton Gibbs hit six consecutive free throws to give him 33 straight - second all-time at Pitt

- And the home winning streak has now reached 30 games - good for second in the nation.

All in all, a good start to the Big East season leading into a big away game at Syracuse on Saturday.

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