Friars Taken Care Of

Well, finally a bit of a breather at the Pete. Providence did manage to keep it close in the first half, but that was mostly due to some incredibly lucky three-point shooting early on. By the end of the half, it was fairly obvious to see the Panthers step up the defensive pressure, setting the tone for the 8-0 and 13-0 runs in the 2nd half. Providence is really a struggling team, and Tim Walsh is having his job called for as head coach- but really, considering the injuries and suspensions he’s had to deal with, Providence played well-coached basketball. Maybe I’d just like to see Pitt’s continued dominance over the Friars, but this isn’t entirely his fault.

Player of the game today was clearly Sam Young- a fantastic day from the field (10-14) in addition to his 7 rebounds, 2 assists, as well as a block and a steal. He really did a great job on both ends of the court, limiting Providence’s top player, Geoff McDermott, to only 7 points on 3-8 shooting. However, Sam wasn’t the only Pitt player with a solid game- DeJuan, Keith, and Ronny all had double digits, and it was particularly refreshing to see improved shot selection and Ronny’s 5-7 from beyond the arc heading into the Marquette game.

I was a little disappointed that Levance didn’t dress, but I know that he’ll play when he’s ready, so I don’t want to be too selfish for wanting to see him break McDermott’s ankles with a crossover. That’s my negative news for the day, and back to the positive. Really solid contributions again from Gil and Brad, making me incredibly excited for this team’s prognosis heading forward. I don’t want to talk too much about next year yet, but I don’t see this team dropping off at all at the end of this season, and seeing 20 very solid minutes from Bradley really got me excited. He’s been improving so much in this Big East season, and reports of Dixon’s getting on him in practice are a huge factor in that.

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I’m The New Guy

To all the Zoo readers:

I’m Max and I am the newest writer for the Zoo blog. We get a lot of pre-game and post-game analysis on this site, which is good, but I will not be writing in that same vein. The most analysis I will do about the game itself is, “We won, awesome” or, “We lost, huge bummer.” Instead, I will be writing solely about the Zoo – the way we act, the way we cheer, if we cheer, and things we can change to make the Zoo better. We have been called one of the best student sections in the country and Big East players voted The Pete as the toughest place to play in the league. However, recently, student participation has been down for the most part and many feel, me included, that the Zoo has lost some of its ferocity. I know that a blog can only do so much, but hopefully my posts will be a starting point for change and improvement. I hope the things I say will influence people enough so that they will respond, either in agreement with me or because what I’ve said has made them angry. The only way the Zoo can become better is if people are allowed to voice their opinions and be openly critical of the organization in its current state. So, before I write anything of value, let me say this – yell at me, get mad at me, bash what I’ve said, and respond accordingly – I’m a big boy, I can take it. Now that that’s done, let’s get to the real reason why I’m here -the Zoo.

Tonight is probably a bad night for me to start writing about the Zoo because I have no clue where it was. Yes, Providence is a bad team and yes, it was snowing. These are both good reasons for a father of two who lives in Monroeville not to come to the game, but they are awful reasons for a Pitt student who lives at most a 15-minute walk from the Pete. The Zoo is packed for prime-time games against Georgetown and WVU, but when a game is on regional TV against a cellar dweller, the place is basically vacant. I check my email pretty regularly and it was saddening when I got a message from the Athletics department at 3 PM (4 and a half hours before tip-off) saying that there were still tickets available. There weren’t even enough people to fill the main three sections (6D-F) and the tickets under the hoop by our bench were sold to other fans. It’s pathetic. And for those of you who did come and didn’t stay until the end, please explain to me your rationale. It’s clear that loyalty points don’t matter this season, as proven by the emails. So my question is, why would you come and then leave early? Do you have to beat the traffic on the sidewalks that lead to Towers and lower campus or the steps that lead to upper campus?

I could write a whole lot more about how we cheer for, at the longest, 10 seconds when Pitt has the ball and how we can’t keep the cheer at a consistent pace, but I’ll save that rant for when we do that at the Louisville game.

In my ideal world, the Zoo would be packed for every game and if you missed a game without an excuse, you wouldn’t be entitled to tickets for the next season. But that will not happen while I’m a student at Pitt, so back to reality. I would much rather be a part of a Zoo that has 500 truly passionate members at every game (not just big ones) who stay for the whole game than a Zoo that swells to 1200 or 1300 only when national TV crews come to town.

To all the people I called out and to all the people who have something to say, please respond. I want to hear your opinions.

Other than that, we won – AWESOME.

Thanks to my boys J-France, G-Butt, and Merlin for their input.

Providence Comes to Town

So, a bit of possibly very exciting news today, but I’ll hold off until later to tell you what it is- nothing like suspense in a blog post. So, after that incredible ending to the WVU game, the Panthers find themselves at 6-4, just a game out of a bye the in Big East tournament, but heading into the toughest part of the Big East Conference schedule. We do get a bit of an easier game tomorrow night against the Providence Friars, but this is still not a team to be taken lightly. They have posted impressive wins at UConn (77-65) and home against then-number 18 Arkansas, 67-51. They are also 4-7 in the Big East, a mark that would knock them out of the tournament if the season ended now, so this is a team desperate for wins.

Luckily for us, the Friars are not at optimal health. Manhattan transfer and starting guard Jeff Xavier is playing through some pretty bad pain in his foot, which has him wearing a boot similar to Levance’s anytime he’s not on the court. Hopefully this will affect his dribble-drive ability and keep him out on the perimeter, where he’s only a 37.1% shooter. He’s had quite a few double-digit scoring effors in the last few months, but most of these come either against bad teams or on less-than-stellar shooting nights (6 for 17 against Seton Hall, for example). Another player capable of putting up points for the Friars is G-F Geoff McDermott, a junior out of New Rochelle HS in NY, who’s had 11 games in double digits this season. He also is injured, with fluid building up in a sore in an undisclosed location, perhaps contributing to his only scoring 10 or more in two of his past ten games. He does, however, average 8.3 rebounds and 5 assists a game, so it’ll be up to Sam and Tyrell to keep him off the boards and limit his passing.

One player who doesn’t look so impressive on the stat sheets but has improved over the course of the season is 6-11, 240 pound center Randall Hanke. He started his first game on December 9th, and while he only averages 8.4 points and 3.1 rebounds on the season, those numbers are very deceiving. Still not much of a rebounder, he has put up 18, 21, and 16 points in his last 3 games in addition to putting up 20 and 23 in earlier games. He’s also added 7 blocks in his last 4 games while shooting at a high percentage from inside. I would imagine that DeJuan shouldn’t have too much of a problem with Hanke, but he could get in there and alter some shots, similar to a shorter Hasheem Thabeet. However, because of the low rebound numbers, I’m not overly concerned about his effectiveness under the basket. In other restricted Friar notes, last year’s starting guard Sharaud Curry is out for the year with a stress fracture in his foot, and previous starter/key reserve 6’8″ forward Jonathan Kale has been suspended indefinitely by coach Tim Welsh, and his return has not been stated.

Alright, now to the slightly exciting news for today. I know I’m going to get some comments about this, and how it’s unlikely to happen- so before you say anything, I know that what’s upcoming is unlikely, but it’s possible.

Levance Fields has been cleared for full practice with the team, has been running on a treadmill, and participating in full 5-on-5 drills. Coach Dixon has said that Levance’s return is now completely dependent on pain tolerance and conditioning- and I would think that by Levance’s mad dash across the court at the end of the WVU game, pain tolerance is the least of Levance’s problems. I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but I would love to see Levance get put in for a very small amount of minutes against Providence- if nothing else, to get the crowd excited- but hopefully he’ll be able to play some solid minutes against Marquette, which would be incredibly important to Pitt’s chances in that game.

EDIT:
I stand corrected. -Keith McBride

Washington Recap

There isn’t really much to say about the game yesterday. I thought that the team looked a little flat early but came on much stronger in the second half. Pitt shot 36% while Washington shot 42% and still somehow won the game. Mike Cook had the best game he has had in a while scoring 15 points. Points really came from everywhere with four players scoring in double digits. The inside game is still missing in action. Washington had 11 more rebounds and caused Gray and Kendall and all kinds of problems. Gray was a non-factor on the offensive end but he did grab 10 boards. Hopefully, he is ready to go against Seton Hall but if he isn’t look for Biggs to get his chance playing significant minutes.

As for the performance of the Zoo it was a repeat of the past couple of games. At times we had more enthusiasm than Providence and Louisville games but it wasn’t sustained. What is our problem? We aren’t holding up our end of the bargain in these games. The Pete needs to be a place other teams hate playing at again. What can we do to fix it for the final home game? Give the leaders suggestions don’t just complain about what you think they are doing wrong. If you are in the student section make sure you are making as much noise as you can. Stop expecting us to win every game in a blowout. The Oakland Zoo isn’t dead or in a coma, like some tough guys who hide behind their keyboards say, there just needs to be more effort out of all of us.

State of the Zoo

Over the past week I have been hearing some negative and completely true things about the performance of the Zoo. The past two games, Providence and Louisville, the noise level and enthusiasm hasn’t been there. Whenever the team hits a rough patch the atmosphere in the Pete is terrible. Chants on the defensive end last for a few seconds and then turn into unenthusiastic clapping. The Providence game had a bunch of great basketball but we never seemed to get into the game. We got crushed by Louisville but even before the tip-off the Zoo wasn’t into it. When our team comes out everybody should be standing, clapping, and making noise. Scream at the other team during shoot around, get in their heads before the game starts.

Its seems like the past couple articles that I have written I’ve had to make up an excuse as to why the atmosphere was bad. Usually its something to do with the start time or that the team’s play was flat. We shouldn’t let it be like this, the Zoo should be on every single second of every game.

Its kind of a Pitt basketball tradition to pick a scapegoat whenever the team loses. I’m no different I’ve made many mentions in my articles about players who I think could perform better. Well I’m going to point the finger firmly at us now. We aren’t performing like the great student section we are advertised as. I looked down my nose at the WVU student section when “Lets Go Pitt” was audible on TV from the 55 of us that went to Morgantown. Well they are coming here for Senior Night and are they going to be able to look down their noses at us if the three ball starts falling for WVU.

The solution is simple all everybody has to do is show up (FILL THE WHOLE ZOO!!!) on Saturday and for 3 or so hours make as much noise as you can. We pay 5 dollars to see a top ten college basketball team that leads a major conference. I can’t think of a better way to get over a Friday night hangover then by screaming my lungs out watching a basketball game on Saturday. We are better than this and lets prove it on Saturday.

Providence Recap/Pre Louisville Thoughts

I thought I would do a recap of the Providence game and give a few thoughts before tonight’s Big Monday showdown with Louisville:

The Providence game was a much closer and more entertaining game than I expected. I believe the line for the game was Pitt -13. Providence certainly didn’t play like a team that was in the bottom half of the Big East. Pitt’s star of the day was Aaron Gray and his 22 point performance despite sitting out much of the first half. Gray benefitted from Providence playing a matchup man to man defense much of the game. This allowed Gray to get very deep low-post position which got him many good looks at the basket. Surprisingly, Providence really dominated in rebounding. Kendall had a very good 10 rebound performance but Gray only grabbed 7 and Young only grabbed 4. The guard play, which has been the key to victory over the past month, wasn’t up to the usual standards. Graves made a couple of big plays late in the game and Fields didn’t have a turnover but other than that a listless game out of the backcourt. Also I was glad to see Sam Young get some more minutes as a reward for his improving play. I’m not as up on him as other people I think he leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive end. He is a turnover machine and he takes a ton of bad shots but some games those bad shots fall. Defensively though I think he is becoming a real physical presence. His speed and jumping ability make him difficult to score on even though he isn’t all there in terms of position and defensive savvy.

The Zoo wasn’t that into the game either. We made our usual amount of noise but the atmosphere Saturday inside the Pete was lacking. Just from looking I don’t think the Zoo was completely filled up. We are on our way to a Big East title lets bring the intensity every game. You never know when a team is going to sneak up on you and give you a tough game. We are the class of the Big East and every team is going to give us their best game. Also DONT LEAVE WHEN ITS A TWO POSSESSION GAME WITH TWO MINUTES TO GO. Rant over:)

I really want a blowout tonight because I hate Rick Pitino. Its personal with me I was and kind of still am a huge Celtics fan, Larry Bird is basketball Jesus. Pitino ruined the C’s with a bunch of terrible trades, Kenny Anderson running the point when he was 58 years old to name one. Back on topic to the game tonight, look for Gray to have a huge game. David Padgett just got injured and his back up is only 6-8. Gray should be able to get a bunch of great looks at the basket. Hopefully, he can stay out of foul trouble and be a force on the offensive glass. Louisville has been disappointing this year and I can’t see them having enough to stop us tonight.

Prediction Pitt 72 Louisville 58

Another Good Win

Sorry this is coming a little late the next day I was a little tired and I lost my voice down in Morgantown yesterday. The bus ride there took forever and we got in the arena about 7 or 8 minutes before tip. WVU split the Oakland Zoo contingent into two groups I guess to cut down on the noise coming from us.

The arena in Morgantown looks like a budget version of the Richmond Coliseum where I used to go see pro wrestling shows as a kid when I lived in Virginia. Making the entire student section cover one side of the stadium created a good visual but it messed with the sound in the arena. All the noise from the students kinda was muffled and the non-student fans didn’t make enough noise most of the game.

As for the game we played pretty well considering the circumstance of being off 10 days before this game. I would like to be one of the first to welcome back the real Sam Young, I knew that other guy in your jersey wasn’t you. Sam was such a difference maker last night on both ends. He cuts such a presence with his athleticism if we can get more performances like that from him down the stretch we are going to be that much tougher to beat. Aaron Gray put in a solid performance and was catching it from the hoopie student section all night. I was personally offended by the comments that they made about him *wink wink*. He stayed out of foul trouble and got 31 minutes just like the team needed. Playing against that zone Gray needed to take up space down low and disrupt their defensive flow. Ramon hit two big three’s late in the game and made his clutch foul shots. I should just save that description for Ramon and paste it into every game recap I do.

WVU is a one-trick pony plain and simple. They shot 6-27 from 3-point land so they lost. The thing that shocked me about them is how unathletic they looked. Pitt was getting easy steals from the WVU player coming off a backscreen and not creating seperation. I realize they got it back to 5 late but that was just a case of the 3-ball going in. If Pitt plays a better game at home on Senior Night we could send off Antonio, Levon, Doyle, and Aaron with a 25 to 30 point win.

Also what is the deal with the morbidly obsese student that they drag out during timeouts to rile up the crowd? Is it funny in Morgantown to be on the fast track to heart disease at 19. I’m being legitimately serious we may not be the classiest student section ever but how does the athletic department let that happen. Any WVU fans reading this please tell me whats up with that kid in the comments you can even call me what you called Aaron Gray last night I don’t care.

See you Saturday for Providence.