Miami looking to trip up No. 25 Pitt with zone defense in ACC matchup
Miami coach Jim Larranaga warns his Hurricanes every day that their next opponent in the expanded ACC “is different than the last team we played.”
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is giving his Panthers the same instructions for their trip to Miami, where so much has changed not just in the decade since their last visit but from last season to this one.
The Hurricanes won their first ACC regular-season title last year, becoming the first team other than Duke or North Carolina to win it outright since 2003.
Now, Miami (11-10, 2-6) is tied for 13th place in the ACC as it hosts No. 25 Pitt (18-4, 6-3) at 7 p.m. Wednesday at BankUnited Center.
It is the Panthers' first visit to Coral Gables since Jan. 10, 2004, an 84-80 overtime victory when both teams were in the Big East.
“It will be our first trip down there in a long time,” said Dixon, whose Panthers lead the all-time series 17-16. “We're looking forward to going down there and renewing a rivalry game for us.”
Where Pitt is coming off back-to-back losses to Duke and Virginia at Petersen Events Center, Miami is 0-4 in the ACC and 5-6 overall at home this season. The Hurricanes have lost three consecutive conference games, a possibility Larranaga was smart enough to foresee. He scheduled a nonconference home game against Norfolk State to set Miami up for a 64-49 victory Saturday.
“We wanted a win,” Larranaga said. “We looked at our schedule and we played Duke, we played Syracuse and we were at Maryland. We thought maybe we could use another game and hopefully bounce back with a win. Not saying that we thought we were going to lose those, but we knew we were going to be the underdog in each of those games. In preparation, you really need wins to keep your confidence going.”
Miami suffered an unexpected blow when point guard Shane Larkin, named the 2012-13 ACC Player of the Year, declared early for the NBA Draft. That forced Larranaga to start Manu Lecomte, a 5-foot-11 freshman, so the coach switched to a matchup zone defense to overcome his defensive shortcomings.
It's a different defense than anything Pitt has seen this season, combining elements of a man-to-man defense within a zone concept. Having 6-6 wings in Rion Brown and Garrius Adams helps the Hurricanes offset Lecomte's size.
“We haven't seen it much this year. We did see it more in the Big East, much more zone in the Big East,” Dixon said. “It's something Coach Larranaga isn't used to playing but is playing now because it's best for his personnel. They guard the perimeter well with three wings and play more man-to-man on the ball than a 2-3 zone like Syracuse plays.”
Miami's zone should test the Panthers, whose 31.9 percent shooting from the field in the 48-45 loss to Virginia on Sunday was their second worst of the season. Pitt shot 38.3 percent against Syracuse's zone.
“I think we're good against the zone,” Dixon said. “It's something that we prepare for, but also we're built to have success against because we pass it well and we shoot it well. But, at the same time, it will be somewhat different.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.