Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, WOW what a win for the Panthers. A few people said that Syracuse handed Pitt the win, but I really don’t like looking at games like that. The good teams find ways to win games- Syracuse is not so bad a team as to just give up. We finally hit big shots when we needed them, and we might have a new hero in Gilbert Brown. I know a lot of you were shocked when he took that first three late in the game, and I might have been even more shocked when he took the second- and made it. When we went down by 11 late on, I was almost expecting to see us fold like we did against Notre Dame, and I was pleasantly surprised when Keith and Gil started burying threes. I don’t know if the return of Levance has finally kicked in, or if we finally realized we can compete with anybody in the NCAAs, but this win means so much for the Panthers.
Jamie did a great job of preparing his team for the zone, and while there were still some mistakes (some miscommunication on transition defense as well as some passing difficulties later on in the game), the team really knew how to challenge the Syracuse defense. Our own defense still isn’t great, and I’m going to say something my friends have been saying for a while- we need to stop hedging on ball screens. If we continue to do so, the only way it’s going to work is if our rotations are flawless, which isn’t going to happen with so many freshman in the rotation. The Panthers are certainly capable of fighting through screens, and against a team like Syracuse that doesn’t have much post presence, we can’t let them get open inside: if they want to get the ball down low, we should have made them work for it. That being said, I don’t want to concentrate too much on the negative- today’s victory both bodes well for our chances at winning @ WVU on Monday and secures a 7th-straight NCAA berth. This is a feat that is rare in college basketball, and the continued success of this program will continue for many years to come.
My player of the game today goes to Gil Brown. He played great defense, forcing some turnovers, hitting two incredibly key threes near the end of the game, and he plays hard every time he’s in the game. I can’t wait to see him mature through his years, and I feel like he’s going to be extremely special as early as next year, especially if his jump shot continues to improve. I’m interested to see how his shot selection changes now that he’s getting more comfortable with his long-range jumper, I just hope he doesn’t forget the little-used weapon of a mid-range jumper, especially with his jumping ability.