Well, in case you missed it the Pittsburgh Panthers played in the 2K Classic in Madison Square Garden over the last two days. In the first matchup they played SMU in a game of runs. But the Mustangs relentless attack wore out the Panthers as they outscored Pitt by 11 in the second half to win 76-67. The unfortunate thing about this game was that Pitt had a lead at half and their offense seemed like it could consistently attack SMU’s defense. However, the Mustangs were too athletic and killed the boards.
In game two it looked like the Panthers were about to get swept in the 2K Classic. Trailing by as much as 15, the Panthers dominated the stretch run of the game to squeak out a 78-75 win. Michael Young was the real star of this game, as he went off for 30 points and even had his own 10-0 run at one point in the second half. Without his superhuman effort that easily could have been a blowout loss. Now its time for the takeaways from New York City.
What the Panthers Lack in Defensive Effort They Make Up for with Not Rebounding
Now do not get me wrong they rebounded much better in the second half against Marquette, but throughout the SMU game Pitt was absolutely handled on the glass. The problem with that is SMU is not exactly a massive team. As well, this same Pitt team a year ago was one of the best in the nation on the glass. Compliment no rebounding with lazy defense and this team has a definite problem to address. Way too often in the last two days did I see an opponent get an easy layup, because a Panther defender was too lazy to rotate properly. This lazy defense needs to be fixed before ACC play, because Young can’t keep scoring 30.
Michael Young Is a New Man in a New Offense
Michael Young scoring 30 and 22 points in the last two games just goes to show you how bad Jamie Dixon’s offensive system really was. Young was regularly not put in a position to score and even though Stallings has plenty of flaws, at least he puts the best scorer in a good position to make plays. The only concerning thing about the Young takeover is that if this team because too reliant on it trouble will follow.
Chris Jones is Bewildering
Chris Jones came into Friday’s game completely lost on offense, but seemed to somewhat finding himself scoring 13 points. However, he just couldn’t help himself from fouling a three-point shooter with one second on the shot clock left. It is unfortunate he has to be one of the seniors this team rely on this season.
Luther Has Big Time Hustle
This Pitt team will go through big spirts where they show not hustle and you are left watching an SMU team continually tapping the ball at the hoop. During these times a guy like Luther is great. He may not be the biggest or fastest, but at least when he’s on the floor he gives the team everything he has and I like it!
Justise Kithcart has me Intrigued
No Justise did not set Madison Square Garden on fire quite like Young, but he shows interesting promise. Pitt needs a playmaking point guard, since Newkirk is in Indiana (Thanks Dixon). Justise very well might be it, right now he is a little out of control, but in this high tempo system control is nothing to be concerned with.
Hopefully They Settle Down on Threes
In game one Pitt was a not completely awful 6-19 from three, but in game two the number shrunk to 4-17. For those of you who are not math majors that is 10 for 36 in the Garden. That’s is 27%. Below 30% from three is awful and this Pitt team might hover there all season mainly because they are not good shooters, but also because they take quick bad threes. Jeter should only attempt a three if the shot clock is winding don. Same goes for Chris Jones. Stallings wants this team to be up-tempo, but the wildly jacking up threes will kill them in the long run.
Hope for an NCAA Tournament birth still remains for this team, but it is a long season and the defense will determine how it all unfolds.
*Never apologize for a win!