USA TODAY Sports
This was an ugly game. The kind that you wouldn't dare watch again even if you were a diehard fan. Heck, I'd be pretty shocked if Jamie Dixon even wanted to break down any game film.
Fortunately, Pitt won it. But despite the 58-43 score, it was a much closer game ... and I, for one, am not all that thrilled with the Panthers' play tonight.
For much of the game, Villanova practically gave Pitt this game. They didn't want it, Pitt didn't want it - no one really did. Five minutes in to the second quarter, Pitt was down by seven and a disaster seemed possible ... almost imminent. But the Wildcats could never keep it up and Pitt came back to tie it up relatively quickly. For the next ten minutes or so, both teams did their best to lose the game and the score was virtually tied (Pitt had a one-point lead) with about six minutes to go. Then something strange happened. Something we've not seen all year.
Trey Zeigler took over.
We all knew it could happen. Zeigler dominated at Central Michigan and was one of the best unknown scorers in the nation. But at Pitt? He'd been relegated to the bench, solidly behind even the oft-maligned Cam Wright. But on this night, Zeigler looked pretty good.
Zeigler hit a layup. Then he made a key assist out of a trap to a wide open Steven Adams for a dunk. Then he made another layup. And a jump shot. He missed his next jumper, but came back with a rebound and then got to the line, hitting a free throw. Over the past six minutes, Zeigler had seven points and two rebounds. Those seven points otherwise would be considered a nice little spurt, but in a game of two offensively-challenged teams, it was the difference between winning and losing.
So that was the good. The bad?
Other than for those last several minutes and the run that Pitt made to come back from that seven-point deficit, this team really played with little urgency. Just as bad were the horrendous turnovers. I'm not talking about turnovers due to good defense, we're talking mind-numbing, complete lapses here. Lazy passes weren't the exception, they were the norm. Even James Robinson wasn't immune as he had three. Tray Woodall and Lamar Patterson also weren't great upperclassmen examples, either - they combined for a whopping eight.
The other thing that irked me was Dixon's casual approach to the lazy play. That's not to say he didn't get in the team's face at all - I'm sure he did. But on camera, it didn't appear to be nearly enough. Cameramen eat it up when coaches go nuts on players so if it happened, you can bet they'd try to capture it. I didn't see it. Once.
No, I'm not calling for Bobby Knight or even Mike Rice. But at some point you've got to let the players know it's not acceptable. To lose is one thing, but to put out such a terrible effort when your backs are against the wall in the Big East can't happen. That really makes it hard to believe that this team is going to turn it on and start playing well enough to get into the NCAAs. Tonight's win was a step in the right direction ... but barely.