Latest win offers dose of adversity

Dixon pleased to see team weather storm of fouls, feisty Dukes


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Through six games, Pitt had rolled past its opponents with relative ease and had not been challenged in the second half, much less fallen behind.

But that changed Saturday against Duquesne in the City Game, when the Panthers found themselves down, 44-41, to the Dukes with about 18 minutes to play.

Before that, the Panthers had not had a team within 10 points of them in the second half of a game.

Their response to that deficit -- a 15-1 run to take control of the game -- spoke volumes about their mental toughness as well as the leadership from seniors Talib Zanna, Lamar Patterson and redshirt junior Cameron Wright.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said a big reason for the Panthers' ability to fight through and find a way to win is the experience and confidence of some of his more veteran players.

"I think we knew that this team would come after us the way they did," Dixon said. "But we have an unselfish team, a smart team and we recognize things and I think one of the things we have been pretty good at this year is sharing the ball and playing as a team."

He also thinks a major strength is the experience of his guards.

"I have a lot of confidence in them. We have good experienced guys on the perimeter. They know how to play and got the job done."

Freshman Michael Young said it was good for the Panthers to fight through some adversity early in the season because they will play in plenty of tough games down the road.

"It was a great experience, being down like that," Young said. "It was a little different for us to lose a lead at halftime and fall behind like that, but you saw our veterans like Lamar, Talib and Cameron just hold their composure and keep us all under control. They just kept playing basketball and we ended up getting the lead right back and then winning by 17.

"At that point, we saw the coaches in a little different light. They were harder on us for the mistakes we made, but mostly we kept doing the things we have been doing -- just making plays, working hard and that's what you have to do, just keep playing."

One thing that didn't go so well for the Panthers is that they sent the Dukes to the free-throw line 35 times and only got there 21 times themselves.

Dixon said that disparity in free-throw attempts is unacceptable and means he needs to do a better job of getting his players to understand which fouls were a result of poor defensive technique.

He also said the Panthers (7-0) must make sure they shoot at least as many free throws as their opponents if they are going to have a chance to win in the future.

The one saving grace for the Panthers in that area was that the Dukes only made 18 of 35 free throws (51 percent) and the Panthers made 15 of 21 (71 percent).

Young, who was one of two Panthers to foul out Saturday, said the Panthers need to look at the video and make sure they do a better job of getting into defensive position when players drive the lane.

"There were a lot of lessons for us to learn from that," Young said. "The new rules make it so you can't touch a guy, you have to beat a guy to the spot. You have to get to where you are supposed to before he does and when you touch him, it is going to be a foul.

"So you have to play defense a whole different way. It is something we can learn from. I ended up fouling out of the game and I think I had one foul that was just a normal foul, but the other four were just me not being in the right place and not getting to the spot at right time. I have to work on that."

Pitt doesn't have too long to work on fouling before its next game against Penn State Tuesday at Petersen Events Center in the ACC/Big Ten challenge.

The Panthers then get two more days of practice before they play host to Loyola Marymount Friday night. They will have a week off for final exams before they play again Dec. 14 against Youngstown State.

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 or Twitter: @paulzeise.


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