I know - not an original title. But this win felt good. Real good.
For one, Pitt proved that hanging with Texas for 3/4 of the game was no fluke. They not only hung with the Cuse, they defeated them fairly handily, going crazy in the 2nd half with 52 points.
A bunch of things stand out:
- Pitt could have easily folded when down 20-10 early and having not scored for about five minutes. They were having a problem hitting shots, and in a hostile environment, it looked like the rout could be on. But one thing stuck out to me - Pitt was shooting an abysmal 3-15 from the field up to that point and had they made even a few more shots, they'd be right there. Apparently they got the memo as they went on to shoot 20-37 (54%) the rest of the way.
- Ashton Gibbs is a star. Despite what some boneheads might think, he's more than just a jumpshooter. Ronald Ramon, who some want to hold as the 'gold standard' for shooting, was a fine player. He was a deep threat, but little more. Gibbs can shoot mid-range all the way out to NBA three-point range, and even drive to the basket a bit. His defense is reasonable and his free throw shooting is unbelievable. And by the way, he has 15 rebounds in his past two games. This isn't to bring down Ramon, who was as I said, a fine player. But Gibbs brings much more to the table and should be a star for Pitt. Also, congrats to Gibbs who was able to break the school record for consecutive free throws, extending his new record to 37.
- The biggest differences in the game were three-point shooting and free throw shooting. On three-pointers, Pitt was 10-24 while Syracuse was only 1-13. Pitt also bested the Cuse at the line going 26-36 to their 15-23.
- Pitt should have won this game by more than ten points, but their late turnovers and missed free throws didn't help their cause. If you remember games past against Louisville, you know this isn't Pitt's first foray into the land of the press. But Pitt will really need to find guys to step up and handle the ball. The good news is that they seemed to get better at it later in the 2nd half. The bad news is that Pitt will likely have more of that thrown at them and without a great ballhandler, it will only make the turnover situation worse.
- Dante Taylor played maybe as good has he has all year. In only 21 minutes of action, 3-4 from the field, 10 points, 8 rebounds, and only 1 foul. Contrast that with McGhee's 2 point/1 rebound effort in 15 minutes, and I wonder if this may be the tipping point in the season where Taylor starts seeing more minutes. He might not start right away, but I think it will take a lot to give McGhee more playing time at this point. Taylor looked comfortable and composed in a tough road game playing against some pretty good big men.
- Jermaine Dixon had maybe his best game at Pitt with a career-high 21 points. He also filled the stat sheet with 5 steals, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Pitt finally got the third scoring option behind Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker. That will be needed if they want to keep winning games.
- I guess I've learned to live with the turnovers and am kind of numb to them now. But it's still incredibly frustrating to see the TYPE of turnovers Pitt is making. So many of them seem to be rushing to make a play or just being downright sloppy, throwing lazy passes. I can live with turnovers. Even more than previous Pitt teams. But the bad turnovers just make you want to pluck your eyeballs out.
I wasn't all that surprised to see Pitt win as I thought they could keep it close. I'm not even all that surprised that they got down early and fought back. But I was a little surprised to see them take it to the Orange in the 2nd half the way they did. They came out and played really well to close the deal. For all the naysayers who were predicting doom and gloom for Pitt, you've got to feel a lot better after this win as they've now shown in two games against top five opponents that they can play with virtually anyone.
Pitt should get a number of votes in the polls on Monday, but still might not be ranked as they only had one combined vote in both polls last week.