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Panthers' big men struggling against zone defenses

| Monday, Dec. 3, 2012, 11:39 p.m.

More than a quarter into the season, Pitt still is trying to figure out freshman Steven Adams, just as the 7-foot center is trying to figure out the game at the major college level.

Adams, one of the most highly touted recruits of the Jamie Dixon era, is averaging 6.0 points per game through eight contests, and the New Zealand native has spent as much time sitting on the bench as he has patrolling the paint for the Panthers (7-1).

Adams has scored in double-figures just twice, and he was a nonfactor in Pitt's 74-61 win Saturday night against Detroit.

Adams played just eight minutes and scored two points. Pitt was most effective when it went with a smaller lineup against the Titans, who built a 13-point, first-half lead before fading.

Adams has struggled to get touches, as teams have packed in their defense and played zone.

“Steve is still trying to get used to that,” Dixon said. “It's pretty normal for a freshman to struggle in those situations. He's getting used to it and working hard.”

Pitt figures to see its share of zone Wednesday when it plays Duquesne at Consol Energy Center.

The Dukes, as Detroit and Howard did against Pitt last week, could play primarily zone to offset the Panthers' size advantage.

Pitt has looked tentative at times against the zone, and it didn't solve Detroit's 2-3 defense until the second half. Adams and senior Dante Taylor played just 25 minutes combined and accounted for two points and four rebounds against the Titans.

“Our big guys are struggling right now against the zone,” Dixon said. “I've got to do a better job coaching it and getting them in the right place and understanding what we're trying to do. That's something that I know and am well aware of.”

Pitt is running out of time to get Adams, who is playing less than 20 minutes per game, comfortable.

The Panthers have five more nonconference games before entering Big East play.

Pitt's perimeter players also could play better against the zone. Senior guard Tray Woodall was the only one who played aggressively against it in the first half Saturday. His three 3-pointers helped keep Pitt in the game and allowed the Panthers to overwhelm Detroit in the second half.

“I think we definitely could attack the zone a lot better, but that's definitely getting us prepared for the teams ahead,” Woodall said. “There's going to be a lot of other teams that show the 2-3.”

Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at sbrown@tribweb.com.

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