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Dixon says slumping Pitt struggling with patience, shot selection

| Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, 10:18 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Florida State's Boris Bojanovsky (left) and Devon Bookert defend Pitt's Michael Young in the second half Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, at Petersen Events Center.

After another single-digit ACC loss — one that wasn't settled until the final seconds — Pitt's season is starting to sound like the same old song.

The difference is that coach Jamie Dixon has changed his refrain — focusing on defense and rebounding — and his Panthers are singing the same chorus. It symbolizes how out of sync they are after their third consecutive loss and fifth in seven games.

“We need to get it right, get better at executing offensively,” Dixon said after Pitt's 71-66 loss to Florida State on Sunday. “I think that's affecting a lot of what we're doing. Impatience is a big part of our issue offensively right now, something we have been stressing and talking about.”

After a 16-1 start, the Panthers are 20-7 and 8-6 in the ACC and suddenly slipping from an NCAA Tournament sure thing to a bubble team entering Wednesday's game at Boston College (7-20, 3-11).

Pitt's offense largely is to blame, as the Panthers' shooting has slipped from 50.4 percent in the first seven ACC games (of which it won six) to 37 percent in the past seven (of which it won two).

“We need to execute better on offense,” Pitt redshirt junior guard Cameron Wright said. “The game is pretty simple, but I think we're making it difficult on ourselves and taking tougher shots.”

Despite regularly running offensive sets until the shot clock runs down to its final seconds, Dixon said, the Panthers aren't practicing patience.

One problem is that Pitt is settling more often for low-percentage shots. The Panthers launched 109 3-pointers in the past seven games, compared to 77 in the previous seven.

That's in part out of necessity, as they are not getting enough production from their post players. Against Florida State, Talib Zanna and Mike Young combined to shoot 1 for 8 from the field, scoring 10 of their 12 combined points from the foul line.

“We have to find a way to execute and take good shots every single time,” Dixon said. “You go through challenges. It's how you respond to them. Shot selection is the key.

“We're taking a guarded shot when we need to take an unguarded shot. I guess that's a simple way of putting it. But there's an execution part, as well.”

Dixon said the offensive execution depends on ball movement and screens, and that the Panthers can't continue to allow “a bad possession followed by another bad possession.”

What had Dixon down after the Florida State game is that the Panthers were coming off an eight-day layoff, during which they addressed offensive issues in practice.

“We're just not moving the ball like we're known for, like we have done,” Dixon said. “You can lose it for periods of time, but I think we've lost it for a stretch here. I felt we got it back in practice, we emphasized it, but we're just not executing. We're not executing our sets, and we're letting things wear on us.

“We need to play through missed shots. We're letting a missed shot affect us two plays later. That's something we're trying to address, trying to get across. We've got work to do.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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