Pittsburgh basketball has only one non-conference game remaining against Albany on New Year’s Eve before conference play. The team is getting some rest before even practicing again as coach Jamie Dixon said the team will not be on the court until Thursday.
This is the perfect time for the Panthers to put their feet up for a few days. Pittsburgh started the season 10-0 and looked to be rolling right along despite having some problems with rebounding and defense. Both were exposed in the loss to Cincinnati as Pitt gave up eight more rebounds than it grabbed and allowed the Bearcats to score late.
Pittsburgh got back on track against Cal Poly this past weekend, but that was hardly a game anyone thought the Panthers could ever lose. Pittsburgh was given a battle early, but eventually they pulled away. The Panthers have had problems scoring as of late as well. This week off will give the Panthers time to relax and find what worked so well on offense in the first 10 games.
Pittsburgh has the players to build on as the ACC season opens up against NC State Jan. 4 with Lamar Patterson starring as one of the better all-around players in the country. Patterson is a very solid guard who can score (17.1 PPG), rebound (4.5 RPG) and pass (4.6 APG). He also holds possession well as he averages less than two turnovers per game. Patterson has not had a game with more than five turnovers.
Patterson is complemented well in the backcourt with the emergence of junior Cameron Wright. Wright is scoring 11 points per game and is also not turning the ball over (1.2 TO). Both of these players can take this week and find out more of what they are doing right. This backcourt is one lengthiest in the ACC, and with the kind of defense Pitt has been known for playing it could be one of the hardest to score against.
Senior forward Talib Zanna is coming off of one of his weakest outings of the season against Cal Poly and probably needs some rest. Zanna has become a true inside force with his scoring (12 PPG) and rebounding (7.4 RPG). He is a great low-post defender because of his ability to beat offensive players to the spot. Zanna can use the time off as a way to regroup what has made him such a strong player this season.
Dixon is one of the better defensive coaches in NCAA, and he will definitely watch hours of tape over the Christmas break. No one should be surprised if Pittsburgh looks like a totally different defensive team when the Panthers hit the court next week.
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