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Pitt sophomore Zanna showing improvement

Jerry DiPaola
| Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011

Pitt sophomore forward Talib Zanna is learning there is no shame in missing shots.

And now that he has overcome that daunting hurdle, something else has happened: He doesn't miss them often.

"My confidence is really high," Zanna said after practice Monday, as the Panthers prepared to meet St. Francis (Pa.) Tuesday night at Petersen Events Center.

Zanna, who scored a season-high 12 points and grabbed 14 rebounds Saturday against South Carolina State, has risen to second on the team with a 67.6 shooting percentage (23 of 34). Nasir Robinson is No. 1 at 69.1 (65 of 94).

It helps that Zanna is 6-foot-9, 230 pounds, and many of his shots are put-backs or launched from close to the basket. But there were times when he missed a few shots and decided to pass up his next attempt, even if it was a good one.

"I just have to stop thinking and move onto the next play," he said.

With the departure of freshman Khem Birch last week, Zanna probably will get more minutes off the bench.

He played a season-high 26 minutes against South Carolina State and was an impressive force around the basket.

Physically stronger than he was a year ago, Zanna is second in the team in rebounding (64, 5.8 per game).

Coach Jamie Dixon said Zanna is finishing plays better than he was last season, but there's nothing he appreciates more than good defense. And Zanna is giving his coach what he likes.

"Defensively, I think he really understands what we are doing, guarding the ball screens, post defense, help-side defense," Dixon said. "He has really improved the most in those areas."

District schedule

St. Francis (Pa.) at No. 15 Pitt

When/where: 7 p.m. Tuesday/Petersen Events Center

On air: Comcast Channel 188 or 210; WWGE-AM (1400), KDKA-FM (93.7), Pitt Radio Network

Records: St. Francis 3-7; Pitt 10-1

Series: Pitt leads, 28-0

Of note: Pitt has won 111 of 113 home games against nonconference opponents.

Players to watch

St. Francis: Scott Eatherton, So. F — Leads the nation in field-goal percentage (77.6 percent, 52 of 67).

Pitt: Lamar Patterson, So., F — Scored a career-high 16 points against Long Beach State and South Carolina State.

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