Assists are basis of Pitt basketball team's success
CINCINNATI — One time it was Pitt power forward Talib Zanna zipping it to a cutting Lamar Patterson from the right corner; the next, center Steven Adams was slipping a bounce pass to Zanna from the high post.
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin called it inexcusable that Pitt players dunked on the Bearcats' zone defense.
Jamie Dixon finds it inconceivable that the Panthers' passing isn't discussed more, given their propensity for finding open players and for those passes leading to points.
“We're not tops in the country in assists for nothing,” Dixon said. “We do it year after year. It's something that doesn't get talked about enough, except for (Pitt radio color analyst) Dick Groat. He's the only guy that seems to talk about our passing.”
The Panthers rank among the nation's leaders in both assists (sixth, 17.2 a game) and assists-to-turnover ratio (second, 1.57). They have averaged at least 15 assists a game every season since Dixon became coach in 2003-04, ranking as high as fourth (17.4) in 2010-11 and sixth (18.0) in 2008-09.
Pitt had 13 assists on its 20 field goals in the 62-52 victory at Cincinnati on Saturday night, and some of the key passes came at the most critical moments.
Afterward, Dixon discussed the importance of spacing, setting screens and making the right reads to get the ball to an open man. The pass, he said, is what makes the play. And making the extra pass was pivotal to Pitt's shot selection, especially on a night when it shot a higher percentage from 3-point range (4 of 8) than from inside the arc (16 of 36).
“We take what's available. That's what we do,” Dixon said. “That's why our offensive efficiency is so high year after year. It's among the tops in the country this year.
“You can't rely on one thing, one play, one set, one player. It's recognizing that the passing speaks for itself, the numbers, the assists. The 13 assists and seven turnovers, that's what's impressive to me against a team that's pressing the entire time.”
It's no coincidence that Pitt used an inside-out philosophy on offense, and its frontcourt of Adams and Zanna combined to make 9 of 12 shots from the field. They also threw two of the best passes in the final five minutes of the game, both leading to the aforementioned dunks.
“We gave them layups on the backside,” Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick said. “That was not part of the game plan.”
The Panthers have won seven of their past eight games, and they believe that they can continue to improve if Adams and Zanna shoot 75 percent from the field and combine for 24 points, as they did against Cincinnati. Thanks in part to its passing, Pitt outscored the Bearcats, 30-20, in the paint.
“We will be a team to watch,” Patterson said. “With Steve and Talib down low, dominating like that and getting easy layups makes it easier for us guards on the perimeter. We got it to them, they were doubled and that left people open to make a cut move.
“And since they can both pass, we were able to take advantage of the two forces down low.”
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.
- Finding balance between toughness, excessiveness key for Penguins’ Downie
- Penguins minor league notebook: Pouliot impresses early in season
- Mears savors success, credits legendary Lange for guidance, inspiration
- Penguins notebook: Penguins getting fewer power-play opportunities
- New assistant Agnew has Pens’ PK, defense among league’s best
- Starkey: Pens move on with, without Dupuis
- Islanders outwork Penguins to sweep back-to-back meetings
- Rossi: For Penguins’ Dupuis, family must come first
- Penguins fans from England, Spain journey across pond to Pittsburgh
- Penguins’ Maatta impresses with how he’s handled tumor adversity