Friday, March 27, 2009


Jesus. I don't even know where to begin. I'm still quite a bit on the tipsy side after a superb night in Oakland, but I'm extremely determined to get a post up tonight about Pitt. I'll probably read this tomorrow and shake my head at the lunacy of it, but that's why Blogger has an "EDIT" button for each post.

Let's Get To It....

First Half
For the most part, this was just a truly hideous ball game. The shooting was atrocious, there were all sorts of fluky/ goofy plays, the refs were subpar, and the coaching left quite a bit to be desired out of two of the more highly touted up-and-coming coaches in college hoops.

The first half really couldn't have been more aggravating. DeJuan didn't show up early on for the second consecutive game. I don't get what's happening with him. He just seems so obsessed with staying out of foul trouble that he's willing to coast through the first half to make sure it happens. Defensively, I guess I don't hate that, but in the offensive zone I don't understand it. He can still be very effective offensively while staying out of foul trouble. If that happens against Nova, Pitt is going to be down 15 at halftime and they won't be able to rely on a second-half collapse to get back in the game, as Nova will just milk the hell out of the clock and we'll be screwed.

Sam was solid in the first half and was once again the biggest reason we were able to stay in a game we shouldn't have been in early on. He wasn't as dominant, but the shots were still dropping for him early. The role guys left quite a bit to be desired too. Ty Biggs got 2 fouls in the first 3 or 4 minutes and was dunzo for the half and really didn't do much all game. Not what we wanted to see at all. Gil Brown was a bright spot and continued to be a damn effective player at the swing spot continuing his recent string of excellence. I'd argue he's our fourth best player right now and I'm really not sure you can even debate that with a straight face. Bright things for this kid are on the way, I'm telling you. As for the others, let's run through them in a hurry: Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker were mistake-filled trainwrecks all game long, and Gary and Jermaine Dixon did exactly what they always do, no more no less. That's enough talk about them.

One more thing about that first half: The refs were just brutal yet again. I still don't think that I've seen a game that was officiated well this entire postseason. There were times during the first half where Blair would go up with the ball and get his shot "blocked" by 3 different Musketeers. The only problem was that this "blocking" consisted of one X-man barreling into DeJuan's chest while another bumped into the shooting arm and then the third guy was the one who actually got the ball and blocked it. And then there were other times, and this went both ways, where they'd call a foul and you figure it was away-from-the-ball or something and turns out it was because the defender breathed the wrongway on the offensive player. Bad job by them.

In summing up the first half, I'd say these were the 5 major themes: 1) Pitt looked like a team guilty of reading their mid-season preseason press clippings. 2) Xavier outplayed us all over the court but they weren't shooting well enough to capitalize on it. 3)For the second, and maybe even third, game in a row Pitt got outrebounded on the offensive glass early. Nothing has been more shocking to me than this development. 4)Sam was doing well enough, but Fields and Blair weren't at their usual level. 5) Watching Jamie and Sean Miller coach against each other was painful. I've got to be honest. I love Jamie but if I see one more freaking hedge play in the defensive zone I'm going to go on a 3 state shooting spree. I'm fine with trying that early on, but when the opposition clearly knows how to take advantage of it (a quick pass to the big man who is left briefly uncovered) you need to stop running that damn thing IMMEDIATELY.

On to the second half...
Pitt came out firing on all cylinders for the first couple minutes of the second. They jumped right back in from 8 down to bring the game to just about even in quite a hurry. This was when things got ugly. And I don't mean physical. Or mean and nasty. I mean god-awful, embarassing to basketball, hideous, ugly. Both teams went absolutely ice cold out of nowhere. Well, actually the X-men had been cold since the half started, but Pitt lost all their momentum out of nowhere after charging back into the game. Couldn't really figure that one out and I still haven't.

Thankfully someone put the smelling salts under DeJuan Blair's nose at halftime and he came out much better in the second half. He was finally going for boards and outworking the goofy white guy from Xavier and was actually willing to take some chances in both zones (sometimes they were dumb chances, though). Pitt rallied around Blair's energy resurgence and Xavier's inside game basically disappeared once the big fella started playing in mid-season form again.

Still, the shooting was agonizing and it mirrored a lot of the stuff that happened to Xavier in the first half. DeJuan, despite playing with a ton more energy and heart, was doing the Aaron Gray Special, repeatedly missing inside shots and padding his rebound totals by snatching up his own crappy shots. He wasn't as bad as the infamous Gray, who sometimes looked like he was volleying the basketball off the rim, but it was still frustrating as hell. We were clearly outplaying them all over the court and should have been outscoring them left and right, but now our shots weren't falling. So I guess it sorta made sense that the game was more or less tied for almost the entire second half.

Pitt just refused to pull away no matter how much better we looked. And so it came down to the final two minutes and you knew who was going to step up and take the money shots for Pitt. Two words: Levance. Fields. The guy may have been quite mediocre for the first 38 minutes of the game, and he continues to not play as well as he did for most of the regular season, but in the last 2 minutes he was a freaking beast. I will now forever spell the word "clutch" F-I-E-L-D-S. Freakin' amazing. That three from a mile away was a damn dagger. And then the lay-in after Blair tipped it away was the cherry on top. The guy is money. I don't know that I've ever seen a college player capable of elevating his game more in the final two minutes and being so reliably clutch. I think Bill Raftery put it best when he yelped "ONIONS!" Either way, he's the freaking man and I will forever have a tender spot in my heart for him.

So we finally advance on past the Sweet 16. I wouldn't have thought I'd be so euphoric and fired up after that unfathomably frustrating first half and after we went ice cold in the second half, but a win like that changes it all. It's great to know that the much-publicized ceiling has been removed at the Sweet 16 level. It's as much a relief as anything to be honest, especially considering it's hard to imagine having a much better team than this squad in the near future. And so the basketball season marches on and we get to see just how far this Pitt team advances. Say what you will about the way they've been playing (and I've said plenty obviously) but there's little doubt in my mind that the next game will yet again keep you interested until the final seconds. That's just the way this team plays, and I am officially okay with that.

1 comment:

Panther Man said...

Honest to god this game really was unbelievable. I went through the whole spectrum of emotions. These guys may drive me absolutely insane, but they are definitely cemented as the best team in school history now. Just wow...