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October 26, 2013

Pitt has work to do - and that's fine

Coaches like to use exhibitions to get the kinks out, to finally watch their team against other competition. Preseason match ups often provide opportunities for coaches to- try different defenses, experiment with lineups, work on new sets and play against different sorts of playing styles than normal - all while hopefully winning in a comfortable enough fashion for the team to still feel decent while the flaws they displayed against inferior competition are being pointed out.

College basketball CEO's often hope for a close-but-not-too-close situation that allows the swelled-up cabezas of their players to deflate just enough that their message gets through loud and clear as they watch the film at practice the next day.

For Pitt, mission accomplished.

Coming into tonight's exhibition against UC-San Diego, Cameron Wright had been having his way in scrimmages against his own teammates and receiving the hype that comes along with such efforts. Tonight, against a D-2 squad from the beautiful beaches of San Diego, Wright struggled to score or create offensively.

And much like summer league basketball and open gym sessions, it's never practical to put too much into these performances for a number of reasons. The same way you don't want to be too quick to proclaim "Cam Wright is going to be the man" after he dominates a walk-on teammate for 25 points in an intra-squad scrimmage, you also don't want to kill him for only finishing with 5 points against a lower division opponent that came really ready and prepared to battle.

In fact, I bet Jamie Dixon is kind of satisfied that his team struggled for 37 minutes against UC-San Diego, before putting the screws to the Tritons late, finishing with a 13-point win (72-59). Dixon was matter of fact afterwards about both the things he did and didn't like.

"We made some plays down the stretch," Dixon said. "I think our guys better conditioning showed late in the game and we also adjusted defensively against their early ball screen action and made an impact in the final five minutes, we probably should have done that a little earlier."

Dixon was pleased with the way his young guys, especially Mike Young, responded to the pressure of a tight game. UC-San Diego had a wide open three-point look that would've given them a lead had it gone down with 3:48 left in the game. It was at that point that Young started an 11-0 Panther run by converting a three-point play.

"Mike was great for us," said Dixon, who made a point of both complimenting UC-San Diego's effort and reminding folks that his team is only had 18 practices thus far. One thing he stressed has to improve is the rebounding.

"We should offensive rebound better than we did," said Dixon. "But we'll get after it in practice tomorrow, what's important is how we play and practice tomorrow."

Lamar Patterson was strong for Pitt throughout the game, finishing with 16 points on 4-8 shooting (2-2 from deep) and will probably be a consistent point getter on a team that may struggle with that aspect of the game early on. Talib Zannapicked it up late to finish with 17 points and 11 boards. The freshman Young finished with 11 and 4, while James Robinson chipped in with 10 points, 6 assists, and no turnovers.

It wasn't pretty, but the late game adjustment defensively impressed the coach, while the many struggles will no doubt help him do his job in the coming weeks.

"Nobody is walking around with a big head and at the same time you have to give them a lot of credit," said Dixon.

Pitt has a lot to work on.

And Jamie Dixon is sure to have an attentive group in front of him as he explains just how much.

Beginning tomorrow.





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