Pitt coach focuses on battle of boards after record-setting defeat
For a coach who prides his program on the principles of defense and rebounding, Jamie Dixon was stung as hard by Pitt's loss to N.C. State on Monday as any loss at Petersen Events Center.
Not only did they allow N.C. State star T.J. Warren to score a Pete-record 41 points in the 74-67 defeat, but the Panthers also had record lows on the boards. They finished with 23 rebounds — the fewest under Dixon — and two offensive rebounds, lowest in school history since the NCAA started keeping the statistic in 1986-87.
“It came down to rebounding,” said fifth-year senior Lamar Patterson, who had three rebounds. “They outrebounded us by 12. It's rare that you win a game when you get outrebounded like that. Between that and Warren going off, that's your recipe for a loss.”
Given Dixon's fixation on winning the battle of the boards, it should come as no surprise he was more demoralized and dumbfounded by Pitt's rebounding numbers than he was Warren's scoring.
“We've been stressing all along the rebounding,” Dixon said. “When it comes up short, that's what stands out to me. Sometimes I don't think our guys recognize it. I don't think other people recognize it. We set records with our numbers of rebounds. I don't know how we can get two offensive rebounds. I don't know how we can come up with 23.”
Dixon has stressed the need to rebound since Pitt's first loss, to Cincinnati on Dec. 17, and noted the Panthers (22-8, 10-7 ACC) have been outrebounded in half of their losses.
“We don't seem to get the message across that the rebounding is what comes short,” Dixon said. “Cincinnati, we were talking about our offense. We got beat on the boards. That was two, three months ago. The message is not getting across.”
Fifth-year senior center Talib Zanna blamed the Panthers switching to a zone defense for their inability to get boards against the Wolfpack, who had 13 offensive rebounds and 35 total rebounds.
“It's easier to get a rebound in zone,” Zanna said. “We just didn't block out. We didn't do the right things. That's what we get.”
Dixon wasn't buying that explanation, noting Zanna had nine of Pitt's rebounds while the other eight Panthers combined for 14. Pitt played man-to-man extensively in the first half yet trailed by a 16-13 margin with no offensive rebounds.
“Are we going to make excuses for ourselves?” Dixon said. “I don't know. We didn't get it done.”
As startling as the rebounding numbers are, what should be more alarming for Pitt is that it has allowed opponents to shoot better than 40 percent in seven of its defeats and has been outscored in the paint in all but one game.
On Monday, that largely was because of Warren, who made 16 of 22 shots from the field, including three second-half 3-pointers. He scored seven layups and accounted for 20 of the Wolfpack's 38 points in the paint.
“We can sit here and say the kid had an unbelievable game,” Dixon said. “Generally, for a defensive team, if you guard and they miss, the defensive team is going to get more of those rebounds. Obviously, if they make more shots, it adds up. And that's the case we had here. We got what we deserved. The rebounds stand out to me.”
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach at email@example.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
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