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Pitt basketball focuses on shot selection

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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Shot selection remains an issue for J.J. Moore and Pitt.

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Free-throw shooting

Pitt made 73.3 percent against Marquette (12 of 16) and Notre Dame (10 of 14) after shooting 66 percent (37 of 56) in the previous two games.


Pitt had eight turnovers against both Marquette and Notre Dame and seven at Cincinnati after committing a season-high 20 against Syracuse and 13 against Seton Hall.

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Power forward

Talib Zanna and J.J. Moore are a combined 3 for 16 from the field for 15 points and seven rebounds the past two games. By comparison, Marquette's Jamil Wilson and Notre Dame's Jack Cooley combined for 26 points and 17 boards.


Pitt was beaten on the boards by nine at Marquette and by 15 against Notre Dame. The Panthers are coming up short offensively, averaging 7.3 the past three games after averaging 16 in the previous three.

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Following the lackluster loss to Notre Dame, Pitt fifth-year senior guard Tray Woodall called out the Panthers for their shot selection. Not only for the shots they took but also those they passed up.

“That's selfish, for you to be open and not shoot the ball or get a worse shot,” Woodall said. “We create for each other. You've got to take what the defense gives us. If you don't, we consider that to be selfish.”

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has harped on shot selection since the 51-42 loss to the Fighting Irish on Monday, when the Panthers blew a 16-point, first-half lead by missing 22 of their final 32 attempts from the field. That involved several players passing up open looks to either take an extra dribble or make an extra pass.

“There's times where we've taken some bad shots and passed up some shots,” Dixon said. “It's a balance. We're not going to be perfect, but passing up a shot to take a tougher shot is what we want to avoid. That's what we've been talking about. We've done that, for the most part, all year long, but we've had some setbacks in that area at different times.”

Notre Dame was the most glaring example that the Panthers don't have a scorer who scares opponents. So, to win, they have to take advantage of every possession. That explains Dixon's obsession with defense and rebounding. He knows Pitt's offense isn't capable of counterpunching a high-scoring team, so it focuses instead on creating assists and limiting turnovers while getting steals and stops on defense.

And, as Dixon has said repeatedly, winning the battle of the boards is essential.

An example: The Panthers made 16 of 46 attempts (34.8 percent) against both Seton Hall and Notre Dame. Pitt also made 5 of 12 3-pointers against Seton Hall but went 0 for 8 against Notre Dame. The difference? Where they outrebounded the former, 40-28, they lost to the latter, 40-25.

“Shot selection is one area that's a constant challenge,” Dixon said. “It's never something that is safe and perfect. You've got to continually guide and watch it and keep an eye on what you're doing. We've got to take good shots. That's what we've always done, and our offensive numbers indicate that.”

Pitt relies on a delicate balance, not only with top three scorers Woodall, Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna averaging between 10.9 and 10.1 points a game but also the shot selection of the supporting cast. When Patterson and Zanna combine for six points, as they did against Notre Dame, Pitt needs better production from their backups.

“The thing that stands out is the balance that we have,” Dixon said. “At times, that's been good for us. We've got to use that to our strength. At the end of the day, it still comes down to it doesn't matter how you're doing. It's the shot selection that you get. We passed up some good ones to take tougher shots. It doesn't matter what position it is. You can't be in that situation.”

The Panthers also can't afford to run a set play only to see J.J. Moore pass up an open 3-pointer or have him lead a three-on-one fastbreak without getting off a shot. Moore was only one of the offenders, but he took accountability Thursday for passing up open looks as much as he did going 1 for 5 from the field.

“I passed up some good shots, a couple of us passed up some open shots that we would've taken,” Moore said. “I took some ill-advised shots, some bad shots, and that forced rebounds for them and a bucket on the other end. We've got keep holding onto that, not taking bad shots. We've got to take real good shots so we can put some points on the board.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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