Pitt coach Dixon not concerned with lack of consistent go-to scorer
Tray Woodall is coming off a season-best scoring performance, one which prompted Pitt coach Jamie Dixon to say that the fifth-year senior guard is playing as well as he has in his college career.
Woodall's 25-point game Sunday against St. John's at Madison Square Garden marked the fifth time in seven games he has led the Panthers in scoring and showed he could be the answer to their search for a go-to scorer.
Yet Dixon emphasized that, despite the presence of a 1,000-point scorer, No. 23 Pitt (21-7, 9-6 Big East) will rely upon its depth instead of a desire for someone to carry them in the postseason.
“It's what you have,” Dixon said. “You play to your strengths. This team, the strength is the 10 guys. ... I think this is a team that's strength is in the balance with the scoring part of it.”
Pitt has been nothing if not balanced this season. Seven different Panthers have served as high scorer. Woodall has been the high scorer eight times, followed by redshirt junior swingman Lamar Patterson and redshirt junior power forward Talib Zanna, who have done it seven times.
Sunday marked only the seventh time a Pitt player scored 20 points or more in a game this season. Woodall has done it three times.
That has something to do with the evenly distributed playing time, which has been a juggling act for Dixon. He admitted that even though the team's chemistry is good, none of his players are happy about spending so much time on the bench. All 10 Panthers average at least 11.3 minutes and 4.1 points, with Woodall the highest at 28.2 minutes and 11.4 points.
“If you're saying everybody is saying, ‘I don't want to play any more,' I don't have 10 guys saying that. But I don't want that, and no coach should,” Dixon said. “You've got to want kids striving to play more minutes. That's what's going to keep them working and striving to improve.”
Pitt has only two players averaging double figures in points — Woodall (11.4) and Patterson (10.2), although Zanna (9.9) is a close third. It's a number that likely would improve with increased playing time. Based on their points-per-minute averages over an adjusted 40 minutes, all but freshman point guard James Robinson would average in double digits.
“Everybody contributes,” said redshirt sophomore swingman Cameron Wright, who averages 4.4 points and 15 minutes. “Every game, we're 10 strong. We just have faith in all of our teammates. All of us depend on each other. That's what makes us a great team.”
Dixon said the challenge is convincing his players the way to stay on the floor isn't to create offense but focus on defense and rebounding. St. John's coach Steve Lavin said Pitt's depth took a toll on the Red Storm, counting that nine Panthers played at least nine minutes.
“Their depth was a factor in terms of wearing us down over the course of the game, which had something to do with us missing shots and not shooting the ball as well from the 3-point line,” Lavin said, noting the Red Storm were 2 of 15, including 0 of 8 in the second half. “It allowed them to keep their pressure up, sustain their intensity and keep fresh bodies on the floor.”
Wright played five minutes against St. John's, the fewest of any Panther, but said the focus is more on the outcome than playing time.
“We won, so we can't complain at all,” Wright said. “That's the ultimate goal.”