Pitt notebook: Zanna's ankle injury leads to Virginia surge
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, 7:06 p.m.
Petersen Events Center became suddenly quiet in the first half of Pitt's 48-45 loss to Virginia on Sunday when senior center Talib Zanna fell to the floor with a left ankle injury.
Zanna was facedown for several minutes before getting to his feet and limping to the bench. He sat out almost five minutes, which turned out to be, perhaps, the costliest stretch of the game for Pitt.
Sophomore Joseph Uchebo (6-foot-10, 260 pounds) replaced Zanna but got caught in a defensive switch, allowing Virginia guard Joe Harris to hit a 3-point shot and break an 8-8 tie.
Uchebo immediately came out of the game.
While Zanna was out, Virginia scored 11 points, nearly one-fourth of its total in a time period that encompassed one-eighth of the game.
“Talib was not the same after the ankle,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “But we have to have other guys play.
“He seemed to be limping the entire time I watched him play, but he said he was fine. He certainly didn't look as explosive, so it was kind of hard to figure if it was advantageous to have him in there or not have him in there.”
Zanna finished with two points and three rebounds, well below his season averages.
He saw the sign
Virginia coach Tony Bennett used the Oakland Zoo to emphasize how he wanted his team to play against Pitt.
“What signs do you see at the zoo?” he said he asked his players before the game.
“Don't feed the animals.
“What is feeding the animals? Don't give them easy transition buckets.”
Bennett's players responded by rebounding well on the offensive end in the first half (eight) to slow Pitt's fast break.
Couple that with good man-to-man defense throughout the game and the result was Pitt shooting 31.9 percent from the field (second worst this season to a 31.4 effort against Cincinnati on Dec. 17). Pitt shot a season-worst 26.1 percent (6-23) in the second half.
“We shot 31 percent and got outrebounded (33-32),” Dixon said. “Things we build our program on.”
Exhausting the clock
Pitt hit 4 of 11 3-pointers, but two of the makes (by Michael Young and Cam Wright) came at the shot-clock buzzer.
Virginia entered the game leading the ACC in average points allowed (55) and field-goal percentage defense (38.0) in conference games, and Pitt fell short of both marks.
Virginia shot better from the field than Pitt (40.4 percent), but its point total was a low for an opponent this season.
“There just weren't a lot of easy looks out there all game,” Bennett said.
Pitt has dropped consecutive home games for the first time since losing to West Virginia and South Florida on Feb. 16 and 19, 2012. ... The Panthers lost for the first time in 17 games after holding a halftime lead (23-21).
Pitt football welcomed 28 prospects to its Junior Day, but the appearance of 2014 quarterback Wade Freebeck was the most important of the afternoon. Freebeck, who verbally committed in June, was accompanied by his parents on his official visit.
He stayed for the entire game before returning home to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., after some recruits left at halftime. He sat with wide receiver Tyler Boyd, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and quarterbacks coach Brooks Bollinger.
National letter-of-intent day is Wednesday.
Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.
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