A day late but the football schedule stuff pushed things out.
Well, Travon Woodall did. It was a little different for the rest of the team. Lamar Patterson snapped out of his funk in the second half. Steven Adams had a great first half, but disappeared in the second. Talib Zanna… /sigh.
You could see from the opening miss by St. John’s that Pitt had put a re-emphasis all week on rebounding. Specifically, everyone better rebound. Multiple Pitt players were around the basket on every shot by the Red Storm.
Lamar Patterson said Pitt placed a premium on rebounding drills following losses to Marquette and Notre Dame in which the Panthers were beaten on the boards by margins of nine and 15, respectively. The focus was on boxing out and being aggressive, given that Pitt has found that winning the rebounding battle is a formula to its success. Even so, St. John’s finished with a 39-38 edge, including 15 offensive to Pitt’s 11. “In all of our losses, coach gave us a number like negative-eight on the rebounding margin,” Patterson said. “Numbers don’t lie. When we win, we usually outrebound teams. We didn’t do it (Sunday), but that’s usually the outcome, so we want to put the emphasis on rebounding.”
It helped St. John’s offensive rebounding in the second half that they shot only 26% (7-27) including 0-8 on 3s — providing plenty of long rebounds as Pitt crashed the glass.
St. John’s did little with 11 second half offensive rebounds, since they offset the extra chances with 9 turnovers in the second half. St. John’s slowly unraveled with every miss. With every frustrating chance on offense where Pitt’s defense gave them no space. It’s what you do to a young team. You make them impatient. Frustrated. Careless.
The story of the game was Travon Woodall. So many games against St. John’s I can remember seeing the NY/NJ guys struggle badly. They so much want to show everyone back home their game. Woodall didn’t have that problem. Despite distractions.
Woodall was honoring his grandmother, Elizabeth Ratliff, who has been hospitalized for the past 10 days with stroke-like symptoms. A 5-foot-11 guard, Woodall put his worries to the side for two hours and played one of the best games of his career in Pitt’s 63-47 Big East Conference beat-down of the Red Storm, scoring a season-high 25 points before 9,129 fans, including many family members who welcomed a distraction from their family ordeal.
“My grandma is very sick,” Woodall said after the game. “I played for my grandmother.”
Woodall was 8 for 14 from the field, 4 for 7 from 3-point range, and had 2 assists, 2 steals and 0 turnovers in 31 minutes. He scored 15 of his points after halftime when the Panthers had to battle back after St. John’s took one-point leads twice in the early stages of the second half.
“He was terrific in every way,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “Every shot he took was a good shot. I can’t say enough about how well he played. I don’t think he took a bad shot or made a bad pass. That says a lot, playing 31 minutes.”
After the game he talked of playing “fearless.” I, for one, was filled with fear as he got knocked down, kneed in the head and generally showed little regard for the safety of his body at points in this game. I know that is how he plays, and he is at his best when he is that way. Still, Pitt really can’t afford to lose him.
Also related to Woodall, check out this piece on Woodall still being tight with his high school teammates. It also gives me a chance, once more, to highly recommend catching “The Street Stops Here.”
Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna started this game playing as badly as they did in the Notre Dame game. The difference was that Patterson responded to getting yanked early, and being on a short leash.
In a first half that saw him play only 11 minutes, Patterson committed 4 turnovers, took only a couple shots and just looked completely out-of-sorts. In the second half, he came back strong. 3-4 shooting, 5 rebounds, a couple steals. I don’t want to say a different player. Just the one we had seen up until the past week.
Zanna. Well, Zanna is a mess. He’s got no confidence in his game. He looks completely lost out there. This is the same kid who exploded against Georgetown. Who had made huge strides this season. But now looks so regressed. It has to be mental. Since he started his shooting slump, everything else has been getting worse. He only played 4 minutes in the second half.
Unfortunately there isn’t a lot that can be done for him. He has to get it figured on the fly, because he is still needed. The rotation isn’t deep enough in the frontcourt. He’s still a better defender and presence out there at the 4 than J.J. Moore or even Dante Taylor. The latter actually got some minutes at the same time with Adams. Taylor is not a four. Period.
Like so many other teams in not just the Big East, but in the top-25, this Pitt team is given to huge fits of inconsistency. We will see what team shows up on Wednesday.