After the road Syracuse win, I have every reason to believe that Pitt can win this game. I watched the game film from last month’s victory, and I think having Levance on that court will add at least 15 points to Pitt’s offense. We match up very well defensively against WVU, and I think this is the team we need to play in order to right our defensive troubles. I look for Gil Brown to continue to have his confidence grow with another big game tonight. The only thing to look out for really is Joe Alexander- he missed his first few shots against Pitt last time and went on to have a really poor game offensively against us, but I know Jamie won’t forget about Alexander’s offensive ability. Our offense against WVU wasn’t so great, but having Levance will solve a lot of the problems we had- namely, finding open shooters. WVU did a good job of limiting our dribble-drives, thus limiting our kickouts, but Levance, again, should solve most of that. Also, if we beat WVU, we might knock two consecutive Big East teams out of the NCAA tournament, assuming the Hoopies don’t make a run through the Big East tournament. I know they still have a decent shot at getting in, but they do need a win tonight.
Agnus, you warm my heart…
Congratulations to the women’s team tonight on their defeat of WVU. WVU came in having blown us out in Morgantown, now ranked at #13. A hard fought game to say the least, each team scored 34 points in both halves, sending the game into overtime at 68-68.
The Panthers held a lead for nearly the entire OT period and held on during the last few possessions and came out with the biggest upset in Petersen Event Center history.
The final score of 77-75 will give us one more number to hold with pride when we invade WVU next Monday.
Limited tickets are still available from the Zoo, so if you are interested please try to get in contact with a Zoo leader tomorrow night at the Cinci game.
Now that the ladies have broken our long losing streak, our men can go out and crush Cinci and make up for that lousy game we played on the road earlier this season.
The Oakland Zoo is sponsoring a road-trip to WVU for the March 3 matchup in Morgantown.
This will be the third annual trip Pitt has helped to provide us. We will again have a block of 40 seats, or if they are still afraid of our cheering ability, two 20 seat blocks.
In the previous two trips we are 1-1, but this year we cross the border looking for a sweep. We have managed to embarrass them in football and basketball now.
Tickets go on sale Monday morning at 7:30am in the lobby of the Pete. The price is $25, which gives you a trip on the bus and a ticket to the game.
This year I am encouraging everyone to bring some sort of sign or something just so we can be completely obnoxious. Bring out some big 13-9 signs, bring out some big 55-54 signs. If you still have one of those FanClappers that Pitt took away from us, bring that too.
We will be standing, jumping, and yelling the whole time. Well worth $25.
The shooting wasn’t incredible last night, but 40% is a step up from the UConn game, so hopefully we’ll see this trending upwards, especially with what should hopefully be an easier game against 13-9 Providence, but I’ll save that preview for later. Confidence was sorely needed, and this game should certainly give us some of that. Last night, I was very interested in the play of our two true freshmen- Brad Wanamaker and DeJuan Blair. I think that Blair had a little bit of an off game last night. He is a force in the paint, but after what happened with the shot blocking of UConn, it almost seemed like DeJuan was still a little afraid to just take it straight up. Granted, there were some terrible fouls down low that the refs managed to “miss,” but I don’t hold that accountable in any game. With 20 seconds left in the game, DeJuan needs to take that ball straight up to the rim and try, if nothing else, to draw the foul instead of trying to make a move under the basket and go for the tougher reverse. We sometimes forget that he is only a true freshman, so it’s things like that which I hope to see improve over time.
I’m getting more and more impressed with the play of Brad Wanamaker. Every game, he seems a little more in control, a little more mature, and a lot more game-ready. Hitting that three early on was huge for his confidence, and I love the way he tries to get inside and make something happen. It’s a little tough right now because the three players we have capable of driving to the rim- Keith, Sam, and Brad- only do so sparingly, so the defense knows how to handle it. I think once Levance gets back, he and Brad will have some great plays together when the defense collapses on Fields and he kicks it out to Brad for either the open shot or a follow-up drive past a confused defense. Brad’s defense is also getting much better, and I really think by next year he’ll be a very solid contributor to a very good team.
On a little bit of a different note, Darnell Dodson (remember him?) is redshirting this year at Miami-Dade JUCO, so hopefully he’ll transfer back to Pitt in 2009 with three years of eligibility remaining and become the great player we thought he would be when first got recruited to Pitt. For those of you who don’t know, Dodson should have been a true freshman this year along with Brad, DeJuan, and Gary McGhee, but didn’t get past the NCAA Clearinghouse and had to go to JUCO to improve his grades. Also, it’s being said that Levance’s likely return is against Louisville at home, leaving us with two tough road games at Marquette and Notre Dame. If Pitt can go 2-1 in our next three games and get Fields back with a record of 20-6, we will be in very good shape.
It has been a recurring topic for debate during the past several years that Pitt fans never storm the court. Last night, Ronald Ramon sent the Zoo, and from what I can see in the videos, nearly the entire Pete, into a riot like which the arena has never seen.
We have had some close victories, but part of our allure is that our home court advantage tends to help us get some big wins in great fasion (e.g. beating #5 Georgetown handily). This is the first game ever decided by a buzzer-beater in Petersen Event Center history.
The closest atmosphere I can remember was an overtime victory against Notre Dame a few years back. What this win more resembled was the blur of emotion following Fields’ game-winner this year over Duke.
Having seen both the high of that Duke win and the low of the turnover at Villanova, I am certain that Ronald Ramon and our Panthers are a much improved team since then. I think our record is deceptively poor at the moment. The losses to Cincinnati and Rutgers are inexcusable, although Cinci is actually still holding up fairly well. The loss at UConn was a tight one. People are now really taking notice to the surging Huskies, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them play pretty well this post-season. The loss at Villanova can be almost entirely blamed on lack of chemistry at that point in our season. Ronald was not ready to be the leader, or the point guard, or the last second shot taker. I think last night he showed that he has matured in each of those roles.
Our remaining games are all pretty big matchups. We still have a rematch with Cinci at home. We have a resurgent Louisville at home. We have Notre Dame and Marquette on the road. Our next contest is a very winnable game against Providence at home. They are only 4-6 so far. It would be another good win to lift us up in the standings.
For those of you that are interested in taking some of that intense hatred of WVU on the road, there will be a bus trip to Morgantown on March 3. Details are still being worked out, but tickets will be available for $25. The price includes a ticket and the transportation to and from WVU. This will be the third consecutive year that Pitt has provided us the opportunity to invade Moutainqueer country, but this time a lot of the preparation has been done by your Zoo leaders. Make sure to let them know you appreciate their effort and mark your calendar and stay tuned for more information.
This team really needs Levance back. I know we have a very solid rotation in the 8 players we’re using now, but they really miss his ability to drive inside and kick out, as well as his passing into the post and really just the way he runs this team. Ronald Roman has been a great backup point guard, and Keith performed very well until late (possibly having something to do with the injured shooting hand) but Fields’ presence makes us an Elite 8 team, not just a tournament-worthy one. It’s being said that Marquette is looking less likely, though he is back on the court practicing, so maybe we can hope to have him back against the Louisville Cardinals on February 24th.
Now let’s try and focus on some positives: firstly, the Hoopies are coming to town. The last time Pitt and West Virginia met in a rather important game, the Panthers came away with a slightly memorable win on Milan Puskar field- and don’t think that game won’t be in the Mountaineers heads when they take the court at the Pete. That was a huge shocker and embarsassment for that school, and I think revenge will definitely be in their minds. Luckily for us, the Hoopies are just as streaky as the Panthers- they set some new marks in futility by going 1-22 in three-point attempts in an embarrassing home loss to the Bearcats 62-39, and good thing for the Panthers that we weren’t the bounce-back game.
The good thing for Pitt is that WVU’s roster consists of mostly large jump-shooters, guys who have the size to take it down low but are comfortable shooting from the outside, and are a little soft around the boards. Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, and Tyrell Biggs HAVE to take advantage of this softness, and- like I’ve said in posts before- we need to win this game. Of course it seems like every time I say that, someone gets in foul trouble, but hopefully we can avoid that tomorrow night. Hopefully the Panthers can regain the shooting touch and confidence we had against Georgetown, Seton Hall, and St. John’s, and keep pace with the top teams in the Big East. This is a team that deserves to be ranked, and I really think they can play like it on Thursday night.