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October 14, 2012

Blue-Gold notebook: Lineups, transition, and more

The Pitt basketball team engaged in its first public competition Sunday afternoon with the annual Blue-Gold Scrimmage at the Petersen Events Center. The Blue Team topped the Gold Team 65-55, and here is a collection of notes from the game.

The lineups

- The rosters were as follows:

Blue Team - James Robinson, Trey Zeigler, Cameron Wright, Talib Zanna, Steven Adams, Chris Jones, Aron Nwankwo

Gold Team - Tray Woodall, Durand Johnson, Lamar Patterson, J.J. Moore, Dante Taylor, John Johnson, Malcolm Gilbert, Mike Lecak

John Johnson and Malcolm Gilbert switched to the Blue Team for the second half.

Robinson, Zeigler, Wright, Zanna, and Adams started for the Blue Team, while Woodall, Durand Johnson, Patterson, Moore, and Taylor started for the Gold Team.

Moore started at power forward for the Gold Team and stayed at that position throughout the scrimmage. He scored nine points and grabbed one rebound, but he said after the scrimmage that he expects to play that position a lot.

Working inside

Zanna will be Pitt's starting power forward, and he led all scorers with 20 points for the Blue Team, while Adams had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Taylor scored six points and grabbed 11 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive glass.

Those three players - Zanna, Taylor, and Adams, Pitt's primary "big men" - combined for 23 shots in the 32-minute scrimmage, or nearly one-fourth of the total shots. Zanna said that head coach Jamie Dixon has been emphasizing the post as an offensive point of attack. Last season, Pitt's offense primarily operated with passes around the perimeter, whereas once the norm was to work the ball down low.

Now it seems that the Panthers may be heading back to that mold, Zanna and the other "bigs" are looking forward to it.

"I'm excited about that because we'll get a lot of touches," Zanna said. "Once you get a lot of touches in the game, it can get you confident and make you improve."

Adams' first debut

In his first public competition wearing a Pitt uniform - kind of - freshman center Steven Adams put up 14 points and 11 rebounds for the only double-double in the scrimmage. Adams could be a much-needed offensive presence in the post for Pitt this season. If he is, it could present more than a few opportunities for the rest of the players.

"He's a big help for us," Moore said. "He just opens up the floor for us. If you throw it in the post, guys are going to come and double him, and that's just going to open up the floor more for us."

The other freshman

Zanna was the leading scorer, but Robinson may have been the star of the scrimmage. The freshman point guard looked comfortable running the Blue Team offense and finished with 15 points, five assists, and just one turnover.

"I just try to take care of the ball as much as I can," Robinson said. "Tray (Woodall) has really taught me a lot since I've been here, so I'm trying to take the little things that he does well and I'm trying to implement them in my game as much as I can to help me become a better player."

Robinson attempted nine shots in the scrimmage, but four of those came in fast-break opportunities, and he said he doesn't mind the label of "pass-first" as a point guard.

"I like to think so," he said when asked if he had a pass-first mentality. "I just try to make the best available play. If a guy's ahead of me or a guy's open, I want to make sure I find him. But if my shot's there, I'm going to take it. For the most part, I just want to win. Whatever it takes to win, that's what I want to do."


Robinson was also a big part of the fast-break attack that generated 16 points for the Blue Team, as the freshman scored eight fast-break points, recorded assists on two of the other four fast-break baskets, and grabbed a steal that led to a fast-break basket. That gave Robinson some amount of responsibility on 14 of 16 fast-break points, and that could be another facet of Pitt's offense that emerges this season.

"That's one thing the coaching staff has been pushing us to do since the summer: really push the ball," Robinson said. "We have a lot of great athletes on this team that like to get out and run. Pushing the ball and defending; that's what he said the keys are to being successful this year."

Junior J.J. Moore agreed that this Pitt team might be built to run.

"We're faster than we've ever been," Moore said. "That's a good thing, because we want to get out and run.

"I feel like we're definitely going to get out and run. We seem faster, we look faster, and we're trying to get out and run, get out and go, and be a faster team."

Other stats

Woodall scored 16 points and recorded five assists to lead the Gold Team, and Lamar Patterson added 15 in the losing effort.

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