Following A 58-39 Blowout Of Holy Cross, Is Pitt Moving In The Right Direction?


Dec 23, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers forward Chris Jones (12) brings the ball up court on a fast-break as Holy Cross Crusaders forward Malcolm Miller (13) defends during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. Pittsburgh won 59-38. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday, I attended the Pitt game against Oakland, in which the Panthers survived with an 81-77 overtime victory.  Following the game, I came down with the flu and I have been posted up in bed since.

A few quick thoughts on that game are that (1) junior point guard James Robinson stepped up late in the game for Pitt, showing his leadership, as Pitt came back from a late 70-63 deficit, (2) Oakland shot 47%, so the defense appears to continue to have lapses, and (3) 5-foot-9 Oakland guard Kahlil Felder is pretty good, as he knocked down numerous shots with Pitt defenders in his face.


Coach Dixon has been trying a technique where EVERY starter is playing 30+ minutes, and this is simply not characteristic of previous Pitt teams.  Back in the day, Pitt would wear down its opponents with a 9-man rotation and cause them to break by midway in the second half.

Unfortunately, we are not seeing this, but post-game, Dixon did indicate that he needs to play his bench more.

Most of the season, I’ve been concerned about Pitt’s defense and lack of scoring, and although this team can improve over the season, I question how much better they can become.  Hopefully, by midway through the ACC slate, we see a more confident, dominant Panther team.

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Quickly moving onto last night, Pitt controlled the boards against the Holy Cross Crusaders (45 to 25) and limited them to only 30% shooting (15 of 50) in a 58-39 victory.  This is more characteristic of Dixon teams, and fans are more accustomed to seeing this.

Despite the improved rebounding and defensive effort, Pitt (9-3) continued to struggle at times on the offensive side, only shooting 42%.  The Panthers did go on a 15-0 run in the first half, as well as a 16-2 run in the second half to seal the deal.

Pitt was only 1 for 8 from the three-point line, and Holy Cross was only 4 for 24.  This was definitely not the game to attend for a shooting clinic.

For Pitt, sophomore forwards Jamel Artis and Michael Young each scored 13 points, and Artis pulled in 9 rebounds.  Dixon played his bench more often in this game, as junior center Joseph Uchebo scored 6 points.

One of my concerns going into ACC play is the center position, where Young has currently been.  Young is more of a power forward, so will he withstand the centers in the ACC?  Pitt is usually more successful when they have a mountain of a man at the 5-spot.  Hopefully 7-foot incoming center Rozelle Nix can fit that role next season.

Pitt only allowed Holy Cross (5-5) to score 14 points in the first half, which was the fifth-lowest total ever allowed by the Panthers in a single half.  The total of 39 points was the sixth-lowest total allowed in a game by Pitt.


One may ask, how bad is Holy Cross this year? 

They did open the season with a 58-57 win over No. 25 Harvard, but we just saw that Harvard was dismantled by Virginia 72-27 the other day.  Holy Cross also beat newcomer NJIT 76-66, and we all remember NJIT knocking down Michigan.  Syracuse beat Holy Cross 72-48, and they also have losses to Sacred Heart, Hartford, and Canisius.

So Pitt is now 9-3, which isn’t too bad to start the season without senior guard Cameron Wright and junior guard Durand Johnson.  Wright has now been back for five games, counting his 1-minute against Duquesne, and Pitt is 5-0.  Some senior leadership won’t hurt, as this is a vital part of a Dixon team.

Overall, this Pitt team is one of the younger teams Dixon has had, and though some of their non-conference games have been close, Pitt still continues to find a way to win, which is a good sign.

I’ve been bashed by several non-Pitt fans about the Panthers loss to Hawaii.  Yes, it stung, but has anyone kept track of Hawaii since?  The Rainbow Warriors are now 9-4 following an 80-79 loss to No. 11 Wichita State, and a 66-58 victory over Nebraska.

Maybe Hawaii isn’t as bad as people are making them out to be?

How has San Diego State been?  The Aztecs are 9-3, with the Maui loss to No. 3 Arizona 61-59 and losses against their only two road opponents thus far in Washington (49-36) and Cincinnati (71-62 OT).  By the way the Aztecs scored against Pitt, I am surprised they could only put up 36 on Washington.

Indiana sits at 10-2, with a recent win over No. 23 Butler 82-73 and a blowout 94-74 loss to No. 4 Louisville.

Pitt’s biggest win thus far is Kansas State, who is 7-4 and just defeated Texas A&M 71-64.  They also lost on the road to Tennessee 65-64.  The Panthers would like to see Kansas State make a run in the Big 12, so their 70-47 win would look more impressive on paper.

To answer my question as to whether Pitt is moving in the right direction, I think they are but it really depends on defensive improvement.  I think Pitt will fight for the 5th to 6th spot in the ACC, and hopefully this young team can pull in a few signature wins against teams like Syracuse, Louisville, and North Carolina to strengthen their tourney resume.

Pitt will host Florida Gulf Coast next Tuesday, December 30th.  We all remember this team’s remarkable NCAA Tournament run two years ago.  FGCU is currently 9-3 and plays at Xavier on the 28th.