Finally, there's some light at the end of the tunnel for Pitt's Zeigler
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In a February game at the University of Toledo, Trey Zeigler attempted 25 shots for Central Michigan. He made 15 of them for a season-high 33 points in a losing effort.
When Zeigler transferred to Pitt last spring he was hoping to bring some of the same offensive punch to the Panthers. It hasn't worked out that way.
Filling a new role on a new team, it took Zeigler the past nine games to accumulate those same statistics. Actually, he fell one point short. In the past nine games, Zeigler attempted 25 shots and scored 32 points.
Zeigler's contributions have been underwhelming, but there is a glimmer of hope that his fortunes are changing for the better after being forced into extensive action Saturday against Marquette.
"It's been an adjustment period trying figure what Coach wants me to do," Zeigler said. "It's a new role for me, so, of course, there is going to be an adjustment period. I'm just trying to figure out what I need to do to help this team. I'm trying to do my best."
Zeigler was expected to earn a starting job before the season began, but freshman James Robinson surprised the coaching staff and earned the starting point guard duties, pushing senior Tray Woodall to shooting guard.
That decision relegated Zeigler to an unaccustomed bench role. He started as a freshman and sophomore for Central Michigan and averaged 16 points per game. He is averaging 4.6 points in fewer than 15 minutes a game for the Panthers.
Truth be told, Zeigler hasn't given Dixon much reason to change his rotation. He has struggled with turnovers and outside shooting. He has more turnovers per minute than any player and has not made a 3-point attempt (0 for 3).
But Zeigler was forced into playing a season-high 23 minutes in the loss against Marquette because Woodall missed the final 36 minutes of regulation and the overtime with a concussion. In those 23 minutes, Zeigler had five points, five rebounds and two assists without a turnover.
Matchup: Pitt (13-4, 1-3 Big East) vs. Villanova (11-5, 2-1), 7 p.m. today, The Pavilion, Villanova, Pa.
TV, Radio, Internet: ESPNU, KDKA-FM (93.7), www.pittsburghpanthers.com.
Pitt: Coming off 74-67 OT loss vs. Marquette. ... Has won four consecutive games against Villanova since losing to the Wildcats in the 2009 NCAA tournament. ... Won only meeting last season, 79-70, at the Petersen Events Center. ... 3-3 vs. Villanova in the past three games in Philadelphia. ... Led by junior F Talib Zanna (12.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and senior G Tray Woodall (10. 8 ppg, 2.0 rpg).
Villanova: Coming off 72-61 loss at Syracuse. ... Won first two conference games against St. John's and South Florida. ... Led by F JayVaughn Pinkston (13.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and G Ryan Arcidiacono (12.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg). ... Jay Wright is in his 12th season as head coach and has a 248-135 record with the Wildcats.
Hidden stat: Pitt is 32-31 against Villanova, including 5-9 in games at the Pavilion.
"I definitely enjoyed being out there a little more," Zeigler said. "It was a tough loss, but I tried to bring energy off the bench and give us a lift, especially with Tray being out."
With Woodall expected back against Villanova tonight, Zeigler likely will see his minutes reduced. Even if that happens, Dixon believes Zeigler will continue to have an important role.
From the outset, Dixon has said Zeigler's development will be an important factor for the Panthers. Even though Zeigler has struggled out of the gates, he still feels that way.
The Panthers have struggled to score in their half-court offense at times, and Zeigler can provide a lift in that area if he can limit his turnovers.
"Getting other guys shots and getting to the basket -- those are things he does well," Dixon said. "The defense part is something he's improving in. He's getting more comfortable as a new guy. He's playing better. He's playing better in practice. He played better in the [Marquette] game."
Zeigler played for his father, Ernie, at Central Michigan. Ernie Zeigler served as an assistant alongside Dixon when Ben Howland was Pitt's head coach from 1999-2003.
Even though they came from the same coaching tree, Ernie Zeigler ran an offense geared toward getting shots for Trey.
"We ran a lot of motion, a lot of different sets from here," Trey Zeigler said. "There, it was more open. Here, it's more structured."
If Zeigler continues to improve he can push Cameron Wright for more minutes. Wright, the team's defensive specialist, has garnered many of the reserve minutes in the backcourt for the first half of the season. Zeigler knows he must make the most of his chances when they come.
"It's just picking spots," he said. "You have to take advantage of opportunities. I got an opportunity to play 23 minutes [against Marquette]. I have to make my best out of those chances.
"It's about taking good shots. I'm not looking to force anything. I'm just trying to get into a rhythm and make plays for my teammates. Here, we have a lot of great players. We have a lot of guys who can score, and I think I can make plays for those guys."
First Published January 16, 2013 12:00 am