Pitt men's basketball team looks for identity
On a night when he rediscovered his scoring touch and sparked Pitt to victory at Villanova, the first words out of Trey Zeigler's mouth were not about the offensive outburst but his determination on defense.
“It was all about getting stops first,” Zeigler said. “We just had to keep getting stops and rebound, and I think we did a good job of that.”
Those words had to be music to Jamie Dixon's ears, as the Pitt coach continues to preach those principles to his Panthers (14-4, 2-3 Big East), who play host to Connecticut (12-4, 2-2) at noon Saturday at Petersen Events Center.
That is the paradox of the Pitt basketball program: to crack the lineup, you have to play defense; to stay on the floor, you have to defend and score.
It has taken 18 games for his words to sink in to two of the four newcomers to the Panthers' 10-man rotation: Zeigler, a 6-foot-6 junior who transferred from Central Michigan, and Durand Johnson, a 6-5 redshirt freshman swingman.
Zeigler and Johnson accounted for nearly half of Pitt's points in the 58-43 victory at Villanova, scoring 13 points apiece off the bench. Zeigler played 25 minutes and Johnson 23, and their playing time figures to increase with every game in which they prove they are more than just scorers.
“They're playing better and better, and they're understanding what we're trying to do,” Dixon said. “I've continually stressed rebounding and defense is the secret to playing time.
“It maybe takes some guys a little while to figure out. Again, it's a whole other level from where you played high school or somewhere else, defensively. It's not even comparable. It takes some time. You can preach it, but they've got to go through growing pains.”
It has been the opposite for Pitt's two other newcomers, 7-foot freshman center Steven Adams and 6-3 freshman point guard James Robinson. They earned starting spots during the nonconference schedule, but are going through their own growing pains in providing an offensive punch against Big East competition.
Where Adams is raw offensively, scoring many of his points on dunks, he leads the team in rebounds (5.0 rpg) and blocked shots (2.0 bpg) in conference games.
Robinson has struggled defending quicker guards and finding his shooting stroke, but coaches have confidence in his sound decision-making and ball-handling against the press, based on his 2.7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in Big East play.
“You talk about the four new guys: James, Steve, Durand and Zig, those are four guys playing significant minutes,” Dixon said. “We're hoping that they continue to improve and get better, so this was big step in that direction for both of those guys.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pitt trying to make bid for NCAA women’s field
- Miami’s 67-63 victory further damages Pitt’s NCAA Tourney hopes
- Pitt’s Wright excelling in classroom
- Pitt’s McConnell-Serio nominated for Naismith award
- Safety Vinopal, former teammates perform for NFL scouts at Pitt’s Pro Day
- Role change suiting Pitt’s Jones just fine
- Panthers still clinging to hope entering home finale
- Pitt’s weakness ‘pretty obvious’ to all
- At Pitt, a chance to make early impression under Narduzzi