Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pitt Marches On

In what many are hoping is the most successful March in school history, the Pitt hoops squad got the month started in the right way with a big W over Marquette tonight at the Pete. The road obviously doesn't get any easier, but I was pleased with the way Pitt just pushed Marquette around at the end of the game.

The Panthers had two so-so efforts against Providence and Seton Hall prior to tonight's game, but they rebounded with a huge W over a very, very good Marquette squad. Granted, the Eagles were without their second-best player in 13th-year-senior Dominic James, but the Golden Eagles were gunning for Pitt early and brought their A game for the vast majority of the night. Jerel McNeal was excellent, as always, and Lazar Hayward and Wesley Matthews brought their A games as well. Unfortunately for Marquette, their lack of depth absolutely killed them. They were up on Pitt by, I think, as much as 9, but they ran out of steam and Pitt's depth absolutely blew the doors off them in the final 6 or 7 minutes. I don't know that I've ever seen a good team like that fall apart so quickly.

We've known all season that Pitt's M.O. against good teams is to keep it close for the early going and use their depth, athleticism and ridiculous physicality wear the opposition out for a second-half run. For whatever reason it just took a little bit longer for that to work tonight, but when it finally started to happen, Marquette just had no idea how to respond. They had thrown everything they could possibly throw at us and had us cornered and wounded, but as soon as Pitt made a run and got back in the lead, this sucker was o-v-e-r.

The Big 3 was money yet again tonight. DeJuan had a 23 and 9, and I honestly can't envision how he had only 9 rebounds. It seemed like he had in the first 15 minutes of the game, but whatever. Sam was playing like he did against Seton Hall, finding holes in the defense and making them pay for not being able to keep up with him. That's what we need out of Sam I Am every game. And Levance...I have run out ways to describe this guy. Hitting Shift F7 in Word isn't going to work anymore for me, I've used all the synonyms for him up. He's just Levance being Levance. 10 assists to 2 turnover (and I only remember 1) and 17 very effective points.

I also need to mention Gil Brown's monster night. That's the kind of game I thought we'd see out of Gil 15-20 times this season. I really think this guy has the ability to be an All Big East type of player next season if he can harness his amazing ability and develop some consistency. He played 30 excellent minutes and put up 11 points and was a nightmare for Marquette to match up.

The Panthers now get the mighty UConn Huskies coming to the Pete for a Saturday noon game that will decide once and for all who the real beast of the East really is. Thabeet/Blair II is going to be the most hyped rematch of the year. I just hope poor Thabeet doesn't end up getting his arm completely ripped off this time. No one wants to see that.Lastly, I couldn't go without acknowledging Brandin Knight. In case you weren't in the house, or didn't see the TV spot they apparently aired, the former Pitt star and the player most responsible for the schools b-ball resurgence had his number retired by the university. I must say... it is about time. I've been calling for this to happen since the guy left school. His numbers may not be the stuff of all-time legends (though the assist mark is the best in school history and will be tough for anyone to snap), but he meant so much to this program. He remains my favorite Pitt player of all-time, and I don't think anything short of a national title will get a DeJuan Blair or Sam Young past him in my book. Watching his number get raised to the rafters, I couldn't keep myself from smiling and feeling great for Brandin finally getting the recognition for all that he did at Pitt. So congrats Brandin

No comments: