Washington Notes

I take back all the bad things that I said about Levance Fields for the past few games. Yesterday he was basically the reason we won.

Sam Young had a strong second half, and once more had 10+ points.

DeJuan Blair held his own against a great big-man. He will have some more tests with UConn and Georgetown, but I think he should be more than fine against everyone else on the schedule.

Austin Wallace was not dressed for the game. He told me he broke his kneecap. That sounds like a pretty bad injury. Let’s all hope that he gets through that.

Good luck on finals, we can celebrate the end of the semester by kicking the crap out of OK St.


Washington Huskies "Preview"

Not much of a preview, I apologize, as it’s the weekend before finals and I got caught up in my studies. Things to look out for today:

-Zone defense. The Huskies generally employ a 2-3 zone, which places an emphasis on outside shooting from the wings and the post. With the exception Young, Pitt has struggled with perimeter and mid-range shooting. OK State shot 53% from behind the arc, but they also have consistent shooters like Anderson and Muonelo. Ramon, Fields, Cook, and Young must spread the floor by making outside shots and create opportunities for Biggs and Blair.

-Jon Brockman. Yes, he’s the same height as DeJuan and weighs less, but Brockman is one helluva rebounder, scorer, and defender. Jon has the uncanny ability to find holes in box outs and score major offensive rebounds and tip-ins. His post defense is superb, and he rarely goes for pump fakes and is difficult to beat off the dribble, which has been Blair’s M.O. this season. Brockman’s main weakness is defense outside the post, which he does not have to worry about at all with Blair’s lack of a jumper. I expect DeJuan to bully him on defense, because he lacks the post moves that most big-time centers have. My main worry is that Blair gets into some serious foul trouble trying to shut down Brockman. You can’t shut down Brockman, you can only contain him.

-Quincy Pondexter vs. Sam Young. Although Romar usually employs zone defense, I expect Dixon to match Young and Pondexter up on both sides of the ball. They’re pretty much the same player. Both are streaky, have had a history of bad defense, are about the same height, and are tremendous athletes. Young’s game, as we know, has made great strides. Judging from Pondexter’s numbers from this season, his offensive ability is still there, but the defense has been still lacking. I expect a huge game from Young, as Dixon exploits Pondexters defensive incompetence. This will also be a test for Young, and we’ll see how much his defense has really improved.

City Game Wrap-Up

Well, I can’t say I was too surprised about the way the Duquesne game went, but it almost happened in reverse. While I expected the Dukes to stay with us early and then for Pitt to pull away near the end, we instead started off with a high-energy 14-0 run and allowed Duquesne to catch up to us. I was rather concerned with a few things in the City Game, but my #1 concern right now is Levance Fields. While it was great to see him hit key shots at the end of the game, for the most part his offense was rather terrible. You could see him getting frustrated, especially in the second half, when he was trying to force floaters that just weren’t falling. I really hope that Krauser isn’t getting into Levance’s head- I was really upset that he was called for a five-second penalty, and it seemed that once he got the ball past halfcourt, he was trying to do too much by himself. We needed to keep the flow of the first few minutes when we were moving the ball, finding open shots, and playing with energy.

That all being said, Duquesne is definitely an underrated team. They weren’t hitting many of their shots, but Shawn James is a real baller. A junior who redshirted last year after getting shot before the season, James really disrupted Pitt’s inside game, finishing with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 blocks (which is still 4 blocks below his season average). When he fouled out near the end of the game, it was a huge boost for Pitt and helped us win. Speaking of fouls, the officiating of this game was awful- Pitt was called for some terrible defensive fouls, and Duquesne got away with a few double dribbles and a carry or two. Props to Duquesne for hitting many of their free throws in early part of the game, it really kept them in it until their shots started falling. It was good, however, that Pitt never lost the lead in this game, and that they stayed in it to pull the victory out at the end. I think we should see a great bounce-back game against Washington, but I would keep an eye out for Levance in that game to see if he tries to spread the ball around again.

Pitt finally goes on the road

Tomorrow will be Pitt’s first road game of the season. There has been quite a discussion so far about what the Panthers should expect from Duquesne. While I don’t think it will be that close, I think Duquesne is the perfect stepping stone for the next set of matchups that Pitt has to look forward to. With Oklahoma State, Washington, and Duke fast approaching, it is about time for Pitt to try out a decent, if not good, opponent.

There have been times this season that the Panthers have struggled. Tomorrow night, DeJuan Blair can not afford to get into early foul trouble. I think he and Biggs can share the time and be able to handle everything that the Dukes have.

I have faith that Levance will rebound from his awful shooting performance last time, and that he, Ronald, and Mike Cook will be able to play their tempo. Mike, particularly, showed some great energy in the last game, and I expect him to be just as into the game tomorrow.

Hopefully lots of you Zoo fans will be at the game. We will be bringing some Zoo News from the last game so that anyone who wants one can hold it up during Duquesne’s intro. See you there.

Sam Young Disappoints

After all of the outrageous dunks and alley-oops this year, tonight’s performance from Sam Young was just plain unacceptable.

Only one 3-pointer? Come on. 14 points is just not going to cut it from now on. Sure we are playing some lame opponents but what happens when we get to the Big East? You can’t just score in double-digits each game and expect everyone to love you. Aaron Gray would be the first to tell you that.

I have outlined some goals that Sam Young should have for each game from this point forward:
– At least two dunks per half
– Five or more points in the first 5:00 of play
– Make no less than two 3-pointers per game, shooting 70% or better
– Give a shot fake at least 50% of your possessions

In all seriousness, congratulations to Sam for another great night. With a slow start, he was still nearly the leading scorer in a blowout where each player on the roster saw time on the floor.

Personally, I’m glad Sam had a rough start to the game today. I feel like he has been too successful so far this season, and I’d rather see him struggle for the first time against a team whose mascot is a Terrier.

When we get to play against Washington and Oklahoma State, teams that are decent but a bit lacking this season, I’d hate to see some miscues leading to frustration on the floor. Some days the shots fall, or in this case dunks, and some days they don’t. You just have to keep playing, and maybe you’ll end up the leading scorer anyway.

Washington: The Return Of Mike Cook

I have tried to be the voice of reason, the seeming lone defender of Mike Cook and Levon Kendall in the past few weeks. While Levon Kendall is still only averaging 2.86 points since his 10 against Marquette, Mike Cook has finally bounced back and given me some ammunition against his detractors.

In yesterday’s win over non-conference Washington, Mike scored 15 points, his most since 18 in the win over Georgetown. In the time between those two games, he averaged 6.38 points. He scored 5 or fewer points 4 times, and over 10 only twice. It might not sound like the end of the world, but he is still our second leading scorer with 10.4 per contest. Before the slump, Mike was averaging nearly 12 points per game.

Its hard to say what those 5 extra points per game would have done recently. Of course, Louisville would still have beaten us, but some of those close games might not have been so worrisome. All I know is that what Cook was able to do yesterday, to (if only temporarily) silence his critics, most likely won us the game. He shot better than 50% and ended up with 15 points. He grabbed 4 rebounds, all on the offensive end. He had 2 assists and a steal, and only 1 turnover.

With the likelihood of Gray missing tomorrow’s game at Seton Hall, or at least playing significantly fewer minutes, there is a lot more pressure on the rest of the squad. My prediction is that Levon will get the majority of time at center, with Sam Young and Tyrell Biggs taking over the Power Forward. Of course, I am hopeful that Aaron is going to play, but consider that Seton Hall is going to be significantly easier than the other three games on our schedule. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have Aaron in full strength against Georgetown than be still nursing the ankle in our biggest contest of the year.

What I really hope, however, is that Mike Cook believed what he said in his post game interview. Mike said that Jamie Dixon told him that he needed to have more fun on the court, and stop trying to force it. Cook added with a laugh, that it felt good “to finally make a shot.”

So all of you that enjoy being critical, don’t think that you are the only one. You might enjoy sitting there at your computer, trashing our struggling athletes. You might enjoy talking to your friends about the failures of our team, like you could do better. But remember, we are currently in first place in the conference. We have an opportunity to finish with a better Big East record than any other year in Pitt history. There is nobody more critical of these players than themselves. I sincerely doubt that Cook and Kendall felt that they were playing their best basketball out there. So instead of jumping on the bandwagon and jeering them, try to give them some support. It might just make a difference.

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.