Zanna soars for Pitt; rest of inside players sink

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Pitt coach Jamie Dixon described the development of junior power forward Talib Zanna as "pretty impressive" Thursday afternoon when he addressed reporters after practice. He wasn't so effusive in his praise of his other post players who contributed next to nothing in Pitt's 70-61 loss against Cincinnati Monday afternoon in the Big East opener.

Dixon's message to centers Steven Adams and Dante Taylor and backup power forward J.J. Moore was basically to be more like Zanna any way they can.

Zanna, the team's leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, has been Dixon's most consistent player while Adams, Taylor and Moore tend to be less dependable. Some games, they'll score in double figures and others they are barely noticeable.

"[Zanna] is beating our guys down the floor constantly," Dixon said. "I've told our other bigs that he can't be the first guy down every single time. It's a compliment to Talib, but it's up to them as well."

Other than 16 points from Zanna in loss to Cincinnati, Dixon did not get much else from his frontcourt. Adams and Moore did not score and Taylor contributed four points.

Dixon said getting more shot opportunities for his post players has been a point of emphasis all season, but he identified it as an area of concern after the Panthers failed to generate much offense after halftime against the Bearcats.

Adams, the 7-foot freshman from New Zealand, did not take a shot. Taylor and Moore attempted two shots apiece.

"It's on me to get it done," Dixon said of the post offense. "I'm never going to put the blame on anyone else. The offense was good in the first half. We had an eight-point lead. In the second half, we didn't get as good of shots. We didn't get transition [points].

"Talib is our leading scorer. He's doing the best work. He's clearly doing a better job than the other guys. He's running the floor better, finishing better. He's playing really good. We have to get the other guys to keep building."

Pitt's offense was stagnant in the second half against Cincinnati. The Panthers scored 11 points in the first 13 minutes after halftime. The Bearcats took advantage of the dry spell and took the lead for good during that time.

Moore remains the team's third-leading scorer (9.4 ppg) despite being shut out for the first time this season against Cincinnati. With Zanna playing 32 minutes there wasn't much playing time left for Moore.

One solution could be moving Zanna to center periodically during games, which would give Moore more opportunities to play. Another is giving Moore some minutes at backup small forward. Moore has been relegated to power forward for most of the season while Cam Wright has played the backup minutes at small forward.

Dixon said both are options, but he hesitated to fully endorse the ideas because he thinks Taylor and Wright are playing well, too.

"We've done it a little bit at times," Dixon said of the lineup with Zanna at center. "I think it's effective. There are only so many minutes. We're going back and forth. Dante has played good. Dante got some baskets for us inside that we needed to get when Steven was out with four fouls."

As for Moore at small forward?

"We've done it," Dixon said. "Lamar [Patterson] has played good for us, too. I think we've got the option to do it. We have done it and practice it. It's something we can do. Whatever makes us better is what we're looking for."

Moore said he did not receive an explanation about only playing 10 minutes against Cincinnati. It was a season-low for him in minutes played as well as points.

"We're 10-deep," Moore said. "There are a lot of options. Lamar played [power forward] last year. I played a lot of [small forward]. There are a lot of options for defense, for scoring. Cam comes off [the bench] for defense. I come off for a spark and stuff."

Even though Dixon shortened his rotation against Cincinnati -- the starters played 140 of the 200 minutes, which is more than they played during the non-conference schedule -- he reiterated that he will not be shy about using his deep stable of reserves for the remainder of Big East games. In fact, he seemed more emphatic than ever about using his bench.

"Having 10 guys is our strength," Dixon said. "We're going to use all 10 and play to that."

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Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.


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