Rebounding remains top priority for Pitt


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Pitt will look to rebound from its first loss this season when the Panthers play host to Cal Poly (4-6) today in one of their final tune-ups before conference play begins.

And the operative word is rebound, which is something the Panthers have worked hard on the past few days at practice because it was their greatest area of deficiency Tuesday in a 44-43 loss to Cincinnati at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Pitt (10-1) was outrebounded, 35-27, in that game, including a 16-8 deficit on the offensive glass. Those numbers did not sit well with coach Jamie Dixon, who has built a program known for playing great defense and rebounding.

After watching film of the game, Dixon said the Panthers were as bad at rebounding as the numbers would indicate but many of the offensive rebounds they gave up were a result of poor technique and not being overmatched by the Bearcats.

He said he expects the Panthers to learn from that game and commit to becoming a great rebounding team now that they saw how important it is to prevent the other team from getting second chances and extending possessions.

Scouting report
 
Matchup: Pitt (10-1) vs Cal Poly (4-6), today, 4 p.m. today, Petersen Events Center.

Internet, Radio: ESPN3; KDKA-FM (93.7).

Pitt: Coming off first loss of season, 44-43, Tuesday to Cincinnati. … Has won nine in a row at home. … Is 108-3 at Petersen Events Center against non-conference opponents. …. Has never played Cal-Poly in basketball. … F Lamar Patterson has scored 10 or more points nine games in a row.

Cal Poly: Nickname is Mustangs. … Has only two starters taller than 6 feet 6. … Averages 65.4 points per game. … Lost by 15 or more to Fresno State and Loyola Marymount, two teams Pitt beat by 15 or more. … Chris Eversley is leading player (13.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg).

Hidden stat: Pitt is fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference in free-throw shooting (208 of 279, .746).

"We're moving on and that is our job, to move on and learn from it," Dixon said. "It is usually part of your offense, and bad offense led to low offensive rebounding numbers for us and that was the main thing on the offensive end. And we didn't feel like we had everyone going to the glass like we had been on the defensive end.

"They were obviously very patient on offense but we went into the game thinking we needed to outrebound them by 15 and we got outrebounded by eight. So we can sit here and talk about all of the different things, but that was the biggest thing out of that game."

Dixon said that it should be noted that even though the Panthers were outrebounded by a lot and didn't play well on offense, they only lost by one and the reason is they played some of their best defense of the year.

He said he has been a little frustrated with the way they have played defense and it has not been up to Pitt standards, but said the fact that the Bearcats only scored 44 points despite the 16 offensive rebounds speaks volumes about how well the Panthers defended.

"I thought we defended well, we definitely did do some things better and we have gradually improved our defense in some areas," Dixon said. "I thought guarding the dribble was better. We have to improve post defense, but we have known that. They slowed it down, obviously, but I don't know how that would keep us from rebounding. We need to go get the ones we are supposed to get."

Cal Poly likely will be a good opponent for the Panthers to get back on track in the rebounding department because the Mustangs are not particularly big.

They feature only two starters taller than 6 feet 6 -- Brian Bennett (6-9) and Chris Eversley (6-7) -- and Dixon said they play with four players on the perimeter and are more finesse than physical.

Eversley, their top player with 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, is capable of playing inside and out as evidenced by his 12 3-pointers in 10 games.

They have played two common opponents with Pitt -- Fresno State and Loyola Marymount -- and while the Panthers beat both of those opponents by an average of 19 points, the Mustangs lost to both by an average of 181/2 points.

Those numbers suggest this could be an easy day for the Panthers, but Dixon cautions that the Mustangs' ability to play smaller and hit 3s makes them a threat to beat anyone.

"They shoot a lot of 3s, they have versatility," Dixon said. "They do shoot it, they space the floor and their bigs can step out and shoot the ball and that is something we have to prepare for. They don't necessarily shoot 3s at a high percentage, but they will step back and shoot it and make some from farther out than you are used to seeing, so we have to be aware of that."


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

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