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Pitt men looking to shrug off recent shooting woes

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 10:42 p.m.
Pitt's Lamar Patterson takes a shot against Cincinnati at Petersen Events Center Dec. 31, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review

As a former sharpshooting guard, Jamie Dixon had to be disappointed when he saw Pitt's shooting statistics in its Big East opener against Cincinnati.

Not only did the No. 24 Panthers produce their worst 3-point shooting showing in school history, but paired it with a poor performance at the free-throw line.

Pitt went 0 for 10 from beyond the arc and made 15 of 25 free throws in the 70-61 loss to the Bearcats on New Year's Eve.

“You've got to make some, and you can't get beat from the free-throw line and make no 3s,” Dixon said. “That's not a recipe for success.”

The Panthers (12-2, 0-1) are counting on their shots to fall and their percentages to rise when they embark on a two-game Big East road trip. They play at Rutgers at 11 a.m. Saturday and visit Georgetown on Tuesday.

The Pitt coaching staff charted every 3-point attempt and took some comfort in seeing the majority were open looks.

“Each of our attempts, they were good shots,” freshman point guard James Robinson said. “Unfortunately for us, they just didn't fall.”

Robinson said Pitt coaches didn't place more emphasis on 3-point shooting this week in practice despite the dreary rate.

“We didn't have one bad 3,” Dixon said. “We thought we took good shots. We're a pretty good 3-point shooting team. The percentage was pretty steady. We didn't make them, and you're not going to win many games when you don't make a 3.

“Just to test the theory, we did.”

Dixon isn't about to panic, considering Pitt converted at least seven 3-pointers in six of its first eight games this season. The Panthers made 8 of 20 against Michigan, 8 of 19 against Howard, 8 of 17 against Detroit and 9 of 17 against Duquesne.

They also know their most reliable 3-point shooter had an off day. Lamar Patterson was 0 for 5 against Cincinnati but had converted 42.9 percent (15 of 25) in the previous 10 games.

“The 3-point shot is not something you start worrying about after one game and 10 shots,” Dixon said. “Really, it was one guy that took half of them, and he's been shooting a good percentage. I don't think you change your whole thing on those five shots.”

More troubling is that it was combined with a sub-par shooting performance from the charity stripe. Where Patterson made all five attempts, forward Talib Zanna was 4 of 8, Robinson was 3 of 6 and guard Tray Woodall 3 of 5, missing the front end of a crucial one-and-one with Pitt trailing by three late in the game.

Dixon said the team's goal is 70 percent free-throw shooting, but the Panthers have made only 64.1 percent (50 of 78) in the past four games. It's no wonder Dixon said the Panthers spent time shooting extra free throws in practice the past two days.

A greater concern should be that Pitt has shot 19.5 percent from 3-point range in the past five games. It wasn't a worry when the Panthers were beating North Florida by 42, Bethune-Cookman by 59, Delaware State by 28 and Kennesaw State by 16.

But the loss to Cincinnati saw the Bearcats rally from an eight-point halftime lead despite making only 3 of 16 3-pointers.

“You don't point to zero 3s, but if you don't shoot it well, you have to find ways to win,” Dixon said. “Obviously, we didn't shoot it well so we have to guard better. I thought we did. ...

“Our mentality is always, we've got to be able to find ways to win games when we don't shoot it well. Cincinnati did because they didn't shoot it well from 3.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kgorman@tribweb.com or @KGorman_Trib.

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