Originally written on Pitt Blather  |  Last updated 11/14/14

I was planning a recap of the Monday night loss to Washington State for yesterday, but had some other things that needed getting done. Then I just started procrastinating.

Ray Fittipaldo’s post on it, summed a lot of the feelings up regarding the game.

I spent most of Monday working on an analysis of Pitt’s season –  what went wrong, what has to improve for the team to get back to the NCAA tournament next season — and my three basic points were all confirmed in the Panthers’ loss to Washington State in Game 1 of the CBI championship series later Monday night.

My three points –  a steep decline in the ability to defend, an almost complete lack of inside presence and point guard play  — were all factors in the loss.

Pitt’s defense was atrocious in the game. The perimeter defense, especially, was horrid. Leaving shooters uncovered all night. Yes Ashton Gibbs was still lousy on defense, but so was Moore, Patterson and just about everyone else.

For the first 35 minutes, there was no commitment to even attempt defense. It took until the final five minutes, when Pitt players realized that they weren’t going to win this game just shooting.

That was the weirdest thing about this game. The lack of defense from either team. It was almost as if Coach Dixon let the team try to play it their way for most of the game. Then there was about a 10 minute stretch in the second half where Pitt went cold on offense. Washington State didn’t and what had been a close, back-and-forth game became a double-digit Cougar lead.

Part of the defensive problems did stem from Coach Dixon continuing to keep giving minutes to returning players and toying with the rotation for next year. Gibbs only played 28 minutes — though, that may have had as much to do with his attitude — and Nas played only 20 minutes (only 7 minutes in the second half). There was an extensive experiment of playing Lamar Patterson at the 4 to have him and J.J. Moore out there together.  That definitely was not a help to the defense inside.

I like Patterson a lot, but with Zanna or Taylor being the other big inside, Patterson was not a good fit defensively. Malcolm Gilbert couldn’t get in this game, because Washington State doesn’t play  a real inside game. They bring their forwards out on the perimeter a lot, and Gilbert is not ready to range that far from the paint defensively.

That meant you had the defensive weakness of Taylor/Zanna on one side. On the other was Patterson being completely out of position and undersized for the other spot. I like the idea of Patterson and Moore playing together — but not with this group. Or at least not with Patterson at the 4.

The only good thing, was that Pitt didn’t give up. They did fight back.

But the defense is the big thing. That goes to their desire to play defense. Outside of Cam Wright and Gilbert, I’m not sure there are that many players on the squad that comes back for next year that want to play defense. The players all know they have to play defense, but that is not the same thing. There isn’t the same pride and desire to shut the other side down.

They see the defense as the means to getting back to offense. John Johnson is a good example. I like Johnson a lot, and he can be a good defender if he wanted to with very quick hands — even if he is a little small and not as fast as he thinks he is. The problem is he is impatient. He likes the idea of trying to get the steal or shoot the gap on  a pass to lead a fast break the other way. That kind of gambling has gotten him in foul trouble and completely out of position on defense that creates breakdowns for the rest of the team as someone else has to jump out while Johnson recovers.

Coach Dixon has talked all season about how this team just gets impatient. And that showed up throughout the Monday night game on defense. They would defend Washington State for 25-30 seconds, but they let Washington State get a really good look with single digits left on the shot clock. The impatience, from my perspective, seems to be because they want to get down to the other end of the court.

Even in games Pitt has won. They have typically had those stretches where the other team gets back into it. Why? Because the defense slips. The players lose interest in that side of things. They want to get back on offense

And yet Pitt nearly pulled this game out. That led to the funniest point in the entire night. Pitt down one point. 3.5 seconds left. About to inbound the ball from underneath the Cougar basket. Ex-Providence Coach Keno Davis is doing the color commentary. The same Keno Davis that had to endure this moment.

Yet, Davis would be damned if he was going to mention it. I mean, it was exactly the situation. Right down to the amount of time left. And at best he obliquely states, “Pitt has been in this situation before.”

Unfortunately, Pitt didn’t do it this time. Woodall tried to take it all the way to the hoop instead of trying to pull-up for a shot. I guess hoping for a Scottie Reynolds shot and score — or to draw a foul. Instead blocked out of bounds. Giving Pitt one more shot. This time for Pattterson. It also didn’t go.

Pitt gets another bite at the CBI apple tonight at the Pete. 7pm on HDNet.

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