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Pitt seniors shoulder blame for home loss

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By John Grupp
Friday, Nov. 18, 2011
 

Pitt senior Nasir Robinson knows part of being a leader is shouldering blame in the face of adversity.

So, in the wake of Pitt's first nonconference home loss in nearly seven years, Robinson and fellow senior Ashton Gibbs stepped forward.

"We have to do a better job leading, going hard on and off the court," Robinson said. "Yeah, that's on us."

Robinson certainly wasn't the reason No. 9 Pitt (2-1) suffered an uninspired, sloppy, 86-76 loss to Long Beach State on Wednesday night at Petersen Events Center. The power forward scored 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

Neither was Gibbs the cause for Pitt's 58-game nonconference home winning streak coming to an end. The all-Big East shooting guard had a team-high 20 points with four assists and one turnover,

But both of them vow to instill more toughness and mental focus in a team with three new starters and nine freshmen and sophomores.

"We have to step up and be better leaders," Gibbs said. "That's what we're going to do."

Pitt has four practices before hosting La Salle on Tuesday to begin a stretch of four consecutive games against in-state teams — at Penn on Nov. 25, vs. Robert Morris on Nov. 27 and vs. Duquesne on Nov. 30.

Gibbs said the Panthers need to become more serious behind closed doors and increase their intensity at workouts.

"We've got to play harder in practice," he said. "We can't be playing around. We've got to just focus."

Robinson echoed those sentiments after Pitt allowed Long Beach State to shoot 59.3 percent, the second-highest single-game effort against the Panthers in nine-year coach Jamie Dixon's tenure.

"Being the seniors and the leaders," Robinson said, "we've got to do a better job in practice and a better job leading."

There is a lot of work to do. Pitt has allowed 45 first-half points in each of the past two games. Long Beach State — albeit the Big West Conference preseason favorite — finished with 48 points in the paint and 25 on the fast break.

"We're indecisive on what we are supposed to do defensively, and that's slowing us down," Dixon said. "I think that's the bottom line."

Pitt was outrebounded by three, including a telling sequence of three consecutive offensive rebounds by Long Beach State with 17 minutes to play. The Panthers' bench didn't help. In a combined 50 minutes, they had eight fouls, four turnovers and two points -- a pair of free throws from John Johnson.

The bench was so ineffective that Gibbs and Robinson each played 36 minutes and Lamar Patterson logged a career-high 33. Gibbs (36) and Robinson (35) also played extended minutes in Sunday's closer-than-anticipated victory against Rider.

"I'm probably playing some guys too many minutes, and that's catching up to us," Dixon said. "We've got to get the younger guys going and helping."

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