Last season’s edition of the Pitt Panthers limped to a 5-13 Big East record and lost in the second round of the league tournament. It wasn’t until the CBI that they were able to get hot and eventually win the tournament and finish with a 22-17 record.
Resiliency was tough for Pitt a year ago, but all indications point to Pittsburgh developing an early edge of resiliency to help them in their last trip through the wavering league before joining the ACC next year. The Panthers dropped a tough 67-62 decision to No. 4 Michigan in the Pre-season NIT semifinals, but rebounded nicely to blast Delaware 85-59. The fact that Pitt could restructure and get ready for an early afternoon game and play so well was a positive for coach Jamie Dixon.
Pitt Coach Jamie Dixon has 10 players capable of producing as the Panthers are emerging in their last year in the Big East.Credit: Pitt Athletics
“I really was happy with how we responded, the assist to turnover ratio, the unselfishness, the passing this week was a good week for us offensively,” said Dixon, “We learned some good things about ourselves. We got better, and I think it’s something we can really move forward to and get away.”
Part of the reason for the early cohesion of the Panthers is that Dixon has a defined starting line up and emerging roles across the boards for the people coming off the bench. The starting line up of Talib Zanna, Lamar Patterson, Steven Adams, Trey Woodall, and James Robinson has developed a chemistry already that shows a big line up anchored by the inside-outside combination of Zanna and Woodall and the emerging freshman Adams.
The 7-0 center from New Zealand joins Zanna and Robinson on the back line for the Panthers and has given them an imposing look which is a tough match up for most opponents. He went 6-9 from the floor for 12 points in 24 minutes as he Zanna and Patterson were a combined 18-of-29 from the floor in the win over the Blue Hens. Adams’ emergence is something that might not have been predicted this quickly based on his basketball background in New Zealand as he was such a standout against a lot less talented players.
Adams played for Team Asia in 2011 in Los Angeles in the adidas Nations Tournament where he led the tournament in scoring and rebounding.
“When he played in those games in L.A., those weren’t games; those were pick-up games with no structure,” said of Adams’ experience, “He was the best player on the team, and he was playing with guys he just met from the Asian team and the Latin American team. They just didn’t know where New Zealand was, but they put him on those two squads. That’s all we’ve really got to base it by.”
Adams was discovered and recruited by Dixon early in his career as he attended Notre Dame Prep (Mass.) and Scots College Prep in New Zealand. Dixon made a good choice, obviously, in recrutiing him and sticking by him as he is already paying dividends. Adams is averaging 7.3 ppg., 4.2 rpg., and 2.0 blocks per game in 19.7 minutes over the first six games of his career.
In addition, 10 Panthers are averaging double figures in minutes which is important once the rigors of the Big East schedule roll forward.
“I do feel that we can play ten guys out there that are really good,” Dixon commented, “We have walk-ons that are red shirting. They get to play a lot of minutes too with the big lead. So it’s been interesting playing with these guys. I think they know they’re going to get minutes. They know they’re going to play.”
- Ken Cross
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