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Pitt men's basketball team plans to retake boards

Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Notre Dame's Patt Connaughton pulls a rebound away from Pitt's Dante Taylor during the first half Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at Petersen Events Center.

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Board deficiency

Here is Pitt's rebounding margin in its seven losses:

Date Opponent Off/def/total Opponent Score

Nov. 21 Michigan 6/20/26 10/27/37 62-67

Dec. 31 Cincinnati 12/20/32 14/23/37 61-70

Jan. 5 Rutgers 12/12/24 11/25/36 62-67

Jan. 12 Marquette 14/19/33 11/27/38 67-74*

Jan. 28 Louisville 19/16/35 15/18/33 61-64

Feb. 16 Marquette 13/11/24 10/23/33 69-79

Feb. 18 Notre Dame 6/19/25 13/27/40 42-51

*Overtime

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

Before Pitt can venture into the heat of the Big East and NCAA tournaments next month, it needs to rebound from its recent slump.

One problem (among a few): It can't rebound.

At least not well enough to please coach Jamie Dixon, whose coaching style places a premium on fundamentals such as gathering loose balls and errant shots, playing solid defense and protecting the basketball.

Other than limiting turnovers, the No. 20 Panthers have not done those things well enough during a two-game losing streak. And Dixon is aware that a team without a reliable scorer can't afford to fall off in other areas.

“When your offense is not very good and the other team shoots 60 percent (such as Notre Dame did Monday in the second half of a 51-42 victory), that's going to limit defensive rebounds for you,” Dixon said.

“We have to defend better for 40 minutes, and we've got to get rebounding from every position.”

Pitt's failure to rebound effectively has been a major factor in all seven of its defeats, Dixon said.

“Two games in a row,” he said of rebounding deficits of nine and 15 in losses to Marquette and Notre Dame. “We've been drilling it. We've been talking about it.

“Our losses ... there is a common denominator, and the rebounding has been the thing that stands out.”

Pitt entered the week tied with Cincinnati for the best rebounding margin in the Big East (plus-7.4), but when the Panthers can't rebound, they usually lose.

Pitt (20-7, 8-6) has been outrebounded eight times and has lost six of those games. A team with a reliable shot-maker can overcome such a deficiency. But junior forward Lamar Patterson is Pitt's leading scorer in Big East games (11.8 points per game), and he attempted only five shots against Notre Dame and finished with two points.

With only six offensive rebounds — after averaging 13.2 coming into the game — Pitt had little margin for error against Notre Dame. The Panthers compounded the problem by getting no second-chance points among their 30 missed shots.

“We got tight as the game went on, and we passed up some open shots,” Dixon said, “and then drove to the basket to make something happen and ended up throwing up guarded shots.

“It makes your offense incredibly inconsistent.”

Patterson suggested rebounding is a matter of desire.

“We've got big guys, too,” he said after the loss to Marquette. “Steve (Adams) and Talib (Zanna) are big guys. It came down to who wanted it more. I feel we matched up with them perfectly physically. They just wanted it more today, that's all.”

Pitt, which was 7-1 in its previous eight games before losing two in a row, has plenty of time to recover before the Big East Tournament begins March 12. The Panthers' final four regular-season games are against teams either tied with them or behind them in the conference standings, beginning Sunday against St. John's (15-10, 7-6) at Madison Square Garden.

“This is, obviously, not the same team,” Dixon said. “We've got to get it changed.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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