Issues for defense upset at 'the Pete'

Panthers get sliced up by veteran 49ers guards in their first non-conference home loss since 2005


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Pitt was hoping to get its defensive issues corrected in time for Long Beach State's visit to the Petersen Events Center Wednesday night. The 49ers only added to the growing concerns of Panthers coach Jamie Dixon.

Long Beach State went through Pitt like a hot knife through butter, slicing and dicing the defense at will in a 86-76 victory against the No. 9Panthers.

The loss snapped a 58-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents. The loss was only the second for the Panthers against a non-conference opponent since their home building opened in 2002. The other loss came Jan. 2, 2005, against Bucknell.


Next
  • Game: Pitt (2-1) vs. La Salle (1-1), Petersen Events Center.
  • When: 7 p.m. Tuesday.
  • TV: None.

For Long Beach State, it was the first victory against a ranked opponent in 17 years. The previous time the 49ers beat a ranked team was Feb. 24, 1994, a win against No. 25 New Mexico State.

"It's real disappointing," senior forward Nasir Robinson said. "They wanted it more than us. They worked harder. They got to loose balls. They executed better. They outsmarted us. They just wanted it more."

The loss came three days after Rider shot 53 percent in a game the Panthers had to come from behind to win. There was no comeback this time.

Long Beach State led by nine at halftime and maintained a comfortable lead throughout the second half. The closest the Panthers came was six points.

Casper Ware led Long Beach State (2-0) with 28 points. James Ennis added 19 and Larry Anderson 12. The 49ers shot 59 percent from the field and scored 48 points in the paint.

"They beat us every which way," Dixon said.

Dixon knew Long Beach State would be a challenge when he scheduled the game. The 49ers have four returning starters from a team that won the Big West Conference regular-season championship last season.

"I anticipated us being a much better team at this time," he said. "Obviously, we're not where I'd like us to be."

Ashton Gibbs led Pitt with 20 points. Robinson had 19 and Tray Woodall 17. Gibbs had a chance to cut the lead to three points with 50 seconds left, but his 3-point attempt was off line.

Porous defense was the main reason for the setback. The 49ers had 25 fast-break points, and those baskets came in a variety of ways. Some came from Pitt's poor shot selection on the offensive end, others from turnovers. Woodall had five of the team's 12 turnovers.

"The transition baskets really hurt," Dixon said. "I don't think we understood how quick those guys were getting down the court."

Pitt did not hold a lead in the game after the 13-minute mark of the first half. Long Beach State had the lead for the final 25 minutes after a rally at the end of the first half that netted a 45-36 halftime lead.

It was the second consecutive game an opponent scored 45 points in a half against the Panthers. Long Beach State shot 69 percent (18 for 26) from the field in the first half.

"We didn't execute," Gibbs said of the Panthers defense. "There were certain spots where we were supposed to be at certain times, and we weren't there. They played harder than us. They executed better, and it looked like it."

Pitt came out sluggish, and Long Beach State took advantage. The 49ers made 10 of their first 14 shots and took a 23-16 lead at the 11:12 mark.

Pitt made 6 of its first 9 shots. But the Panthers committed four early turnovers and did not grab their first offensive rebound until more than nine minutes into the game. Talib Zanna got the rebound, and it led to a Lamar Patterson jumper, which started a rally that saw Pitt tie the score, 25-25, on Robinson's three-point play.

Long Beach State regained control in the final five minutes of the half. Quiet for the first portion of the game, Ware scored 9 of his 14 first-half points in the final 4:58 to give the 49ers their halftime advantage.

Robinson kept Pitt in the game in the first half. He scored 15 points, but he had little help inside. Dante Taylor picked up two early fouls and only played five minutes in the first half. Zanna was ineffective as his replacement, going scoreless with one rebound and three personal fouls in 14 minutes off the bench in the first half. He finished the game with no points and six rebounds.

After Zanna picked up his third foul, Dixon went to freshman Malcolm Gilbert to close out the half. Realizing the Panthers were not a threat to score in the low post, the 49ers began to overplay the guards. In the final 10 minutes of the half, Gibbs and Woodall combined to make two baskets.

The second half was just as bad for the Panthers, who tried to play zone to see if they could throw the 49ers off rhythm. But Long Beach State wasn't fazed. The 49ers worked their offense and got good shots, and when they didn't convert them they were rebounding well to prevent Pitt from getting much in transition offense.

"We came in more hungry," Ennis said. "They were ranked so they thought they had it."


Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230.


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