Panthers insider: Zanna's bad ankle gave glimpse at glaring issue
Forgive Jamie Dixon if Pitt's season flashed before his eyes when Talib Zanna collapsed on the court.
A hush fell over Petersen Events Center on Sunday when Zanna twisted his left ankle against Virginia.
Pitt already had lost one key contributor when sophomore swingman Durand Johnson suffered a season-ending knee injury Jan. 11.
The Panthers can ill afford to lose Zanna, the 6-foot-9 fifth-year senior who switched from power forward to center this season and has had three double-doubles in ACC play.
“You talk about losing guys and anybody is going to be concerned,” Dixon said. “No team is deep enough to lose its second- and fourth-leading scorers. There's only so many things you can withstand.”
Not only is Zanna Pitt's No. 2 scorer (12.8) and leading rebounder (7.6), but the Panthers also are still trying to replace Johnson's 8.8 points a game.
Some of that burden has fallen on the shoulders of fifth-year senior swingman Lamar Patterson, who is trying to carry a greater scoring load.
Johnson's presence provided a dangerous 3-point threat who was improving as a defender and rebounder and one whose presence gave the Panthers frontcourt flexibility.
When Johnson entered a game, Pitt could sub for Patterson or switch him to shooting guard or power forward, depending on matchups.
“It's affected me a lot,” Patterson said. “Durand's a good player, and he was about to become a big force. He was becoming more consistent for us, knocking down shots and doing other things people didn't know Durand can do. Durand's a guy that gets me going. He's the soul and heart of this team. When he went down, it hurt us all. I'm playing more minutes, and we've got to compensate for what he did for the team.”
It's a far cry from last season, when Dixon was trying to keep 10 players while splitting their playing time.
What's worse, Pitt doesn't have a true backup for Zanna after its past two post recruits left as freshmen. Two years ago, Khem Birch transferred to UNLV. Last year, Steven Adams declared for the NBA Draft.
Rutgers transfer Derrick Randall, a 6-9 junior, has averaged three minutes the past two games. Joseph Uchebo, a 6-10 sophomore junior-college transfer, replaced Zanna against Virginia but was yanked within a minute after a defensive breakdown.
Instead, Dixon is relying upon his four freshmen to provide depth while learning on the go. Mike Young starts at power forward but is the best post defender so he moves to the center when Zanna is out. Jamel Artis is getting more minutes at power forward, and Josh Newkirk and Chris Jones are seeing time in the backcourt.
“We've got four freshmen that have to get better in the eight-man rotation,” Dixon said. “They've got to improve. To me, that's encouraging because I know they will.”
Pitt doesn't have a choice.
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.
- Pitt football notebook: ‘No. 1 safety’ Mitchell asked to step up
- Top 30 guard shooting Heron decommits from Pitt
- Penguins notebook: Dumoulin seeking redemption
- Stakes raised for Pitt spring game
- Defense shines in Pitt football spring game
- Pitt senior Kiesel selected by WNBA’s Tulsa Shock
- Nice meal on line in Pitt spring game
- Pitt linebacker Grigsby seizes opportunity during spring drills
- Ex-Woodland Hills standout making impression at safety for Pitt
- Unlike his predecessor, Pitt’s Chaney unafraid to push QB Voytik
- Pitt’s Johnson leaves men’s basketball team