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Panther insider: Passing, plays excel in late shot-clock situations

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Sophomore point guard James Robinson increased his nation's-best average from 5.21 to 5.79 a game with an eight-assist, no-turnover game vs. Clemson. He has 81 assists against 14 turnovers.


Lamar Patterson took it upon himself to fill Durand Johnson's shoes, making 4 of 9 at Syracuse and 3 of 4 against Clemson to improve to 44.3 percent (39-88).



The Panthers are shooting 72.5 percent on the season but only 68.4 percent in ACC games. They missed 10 of 23 attempts at Syracuse, a costly number in a 59-54 defeat. Cameron Wright (53.3) and Talib Zanna (61.5) need to improve their ACC averages.


That Pitt experienced a dramatic drop is not necessarily a negative. After getting five points at N.C. State and 10 against Maryland, the Panthers went for 19, 21 and 19 in their next three games. They had only two second-chance points against Clemson, mostly because they shot 56.3 percent from the field.

Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 10:42 p.m.

Lamar Patterson lofted a fadeaway 3-pointer from the left wing at the final second against Clemson.

When it swished through the net as the shot clock sounded its alarm, Pitt assistant coach Brandin Knight knew it was a “heartbreaker.”

“That's a crushing blow to a defense,” he told TribLIVE Radio, “when you've guarded that well and somebody makes a tough shot.”

Clemson coach Brad Brownell dwelled on Pitt's proficiency at sinking shots late in the shot clock after the Panthers' 76-43 victory Tuesday, calling them a “terrific passing team” after they assisted on 24 of 27 field goals.

“They make plays kind of out of nowhere,” Brownell said. “You guard them for 25 seconds and, at the end of a shot clock, somebody will make a great read on a pass and they'll be laying it in.”

It's not by accident.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon knew his Panthers needed to practice patience running its offense after watching them go through sets only to see 20 seconds left on the clock.

After the 45-44 loss to Cincinnati on Dec. 17 in the Jimmy V Classic, they worked on running the offense more deliberately against no defenders while working the shot clock down to its final ticks.

The more they worked the ball around, the harder they forced opponents to play defense. That ultimately led to easier shots.

“We felt maybe we took too many quick shots early in the year,” Dixon said. “Patience is a big part of it. A lot of guys who can make plays and passes are a big part of that.”

It helps to have “elite passers,” as Brownell called senior swingman Patterson and sophomore point guard James Robinson.

“We have a very unselfish team,” Robinson said. “When somebody gives their shot up to make a play for somebody else, it usually comes back around.”

Just as Pitt believes there is a correlation from defense to offense, the Panthers know that taking their time to work the clock can force opponents to respond by rushing their shots to recover from a deficit.

“As patient as we were, we still scored 76 points; and as patient as they were, it made them use clock,” Dixon said. “You need to be patient, but you also need to get transition baskets. We're a team that obviously runs and scores a lot of points, but you have to be able to wear them down. We're better with our sets. We know now what we want to do at the end of the clock.”

What opponents haven't figured out is which player to stop late in the shot clock, in part because Pitt has more than one option.

“I think that separates teams sometimes,” Brownell said, “when you have multiple guys.”

Especially when they make them.


Did you have a chip on your shoulders against Clemson after the loss at Syracuse, feeling like you had something to prove?

Not necessarily something to prove. We know how good we are. We know how good we can be. We definitely felt like we should have won that game, but we were happy to come back home and be on our home floor and we wanted to play in front of our home crowd and get it done for the Zoo.

What prevented you from having a letdown?

We can't let one loss turn into another back-to-back. We don't like losing. Obviously, no team likes losing, but we don't lose games at home. That's what we really emphasized today. An opposing team comes on our home floor and we get it done.

You guys are 17-2...

Really? I didn't know that. I just know we lost twice.

How good can this team be?

We can be as good as we want. The only team in our way is ourselves. It will be fun to watch.




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