Congratulations to TJ Biggs on his first start. I am not sure of the situation that led to Blair staying on the bench, but regardless, Biggs gave Jamie plenty of reason not to regret the decision. In a lackluster first half, Biggs scored some of Pitt’s first points. When nothing seemed to be coming together for the Panthers, Tyrell was looking good.
Although his scoring did not carry over into the second half, he had 11 rebounds today, which is just amazing. Since his arrival at Pitt, Tyrell has often been a player without a position. With Gray and Kendall as the big men, he struggled to get quality minutes. Now, he is poised to be the backup center. Since DeJuan is only a freshman, even being the backup is going to have significant responsibilities. If Blair gets in foul trouble, having a guy like Biggs, who can grab 11 rebounds, is a huge relief.
Not too often would you talk about one player replacing the other in the lineup and call out both of them for their great games. Like I said, I would like to hear the official story about DeJuan today. He looked a bit lethargic in warmup, so I’m guessing something happened in practice this week.
Coming off the bench for the first time this season, DeJuan used his time extremely efficiently. Highlighted by his one-hand jam in the second half, he was one of the reasons for Pitt’s second-half surge. He ended with 11 points and 11 rebounds. The thing I love most about DeJuan is his attitude. When he gets on the floor, you can see it in his eyes that he wants to make plays, and in a game like today’s, that is what Pitt needs most.
I feel like I’m giving the whole team accolades today, but:
The ferocity that Mike Cook showed today is worth mentioning. Mike is typically a soft-spoken sort of guy. He makes his plays without all of the glamour of a Sam Young slam. It is nice to know that when things get rough, Cook is going to push everyone else in the right direction.
Last year, when recapping games, I made a point of not making it all Aaron Gray all the time. This season Sam Young is again making it hard for me to talk about anyone else: 17 points and 12 rebounds. His dunk tonight was probably the most beautiful basketball play I’ve seen in the past four years.
The biggest problem I saw today was the performance of Levance. He has been my favorite player since he joined Pitt, and tonight he looked like my other favorite player, Carl Krauser. He drove into the lane, under severe coverage, and missed his shots. When Pitt struggled early, in Krauser-esque fasion, he tried to carry the team on his shoulders. Many people have criticized the Panthers since Krauser’s departure, saying that they needed a guy to do that. Most of the time I would agree, but I think maybe Fields has spent too much time recently working out with Carl. His recent assist/turnover ratio numbers are all the reason he needs to keep playing his own game.
“Blair, a 6-foot-8 inside player from Pittsburgh who was the school’s top recruit this season, was not in the starting lineup for the first time after attending a great grandparent’s funeral Saturday morning. He didn’t arrive at the Petersen Events Center until about an hour before game time.”