I generally don't do the whole media link recap thing after basketball games, but Pitt - Penn State kind of warrants it, no? Truthfully, there was a lot of good stuff that came out in some of the recaps around the State.
First things first, the athletics department recap has quotes, post-game interviews, and the like.
I'm glad Jamie Dixon mentioned it (via the Post-Gazette recap), but Pitt did not have the usual amount of assists they typically do and had only three as a team at the half:
The Pitt Panthers struggled offensively in the first half Tuesday night against Penn State, and it was really the first time this season that they couldn't get good shots or get shots to fall.
And that was a huge reason they trailed the Nittany Lions at the half by two points, their first halftime deficit this season But Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said his halftime speech didn't involve a lot of screaming and ranting, just a simple reminder of how they are supposed to play.
"I don't know how many times I said it at the half, but I simply point out we only had three assists," Dixon said after the Panthers pulled out a 78-69 victory.
For the Panthers, that's a big deal. They rank in the top 25 in the nation in that category and had only eight last night while their average heading into the game was about 18.
Lots of possessions with too much standing around and not getting the easy buckets. And when they did have good looks at point-blank range, they missed several of them.
The Trib's article, meanwhile, focused on the exploits of Talib Zanna and Lamar Patterson. The Pitt News also talked about getting leadership from those guys and the AP recap (via the Johnstown Trib-Democrat) also talked about the duo. I mentioned this in my recap, but the way those two guys stepped up in the second half was largely the reason for the win. Both were non-existent in the first half but came back to have big games.
Another Trib article focused on the big night by Tim Frazier. But one interesting point a bit buried was that Penn State coach Pat Chambers said his team looked a little tired at the end. That's understandable because the team apparently has played five games in ten days. This time of year, a lot of teams have games crammed in from early-season tournaments, but yeah, playing that much and then having to travel to Pittsburgh is quite a haul.
So, in case you missed it, Pat Chambers was a hot topic of discussion afterwards. For starters, he didn't think his team necessarily got a fair shake from the officials in the game:
"They tried to get in our gaps. We got some tough calls against us. That’s life on the road."
A reporter suggested PSU developed fear of fouling:
"You said it, I didn’t. But I would agree with that. I got guys with three and four fouls and they don’t want to foul. They’re backing off and that can hurt."
Then, there was this ...
"I feel like we can compete every night against anybody. Whether it’s Pitt or whoever in the Big Ten, I feel like we have a good solid team and we have to continue to get better. And I hope people start taking us seriously. I know these guys, we’re tired of everybody talking about us like we’re not a good team. … We’re a good team, we’re a good basketball team. Get used to it. How’s that sound?"
I asked about that. He doesn’t think people take them seriously?
"No. Not at all."
"I’m sure because of history. Our attitude is changed. Our mindset has changed. We’re competing at a high level. We’re not seeing great results the last two games. But we’re getting there."
At this point a pointed question from a Pitt reporter: "Don’t you think beating Bucknell [a 90-80 PSU conqueror in State College] would help that?"
"Yeah, I agree. Nice low blow but, yeah, I agree."
That Bucknell crack >>>>>>>
The irony, of course, was Pitt's loss several years back to Bucknell. But I digress ...
Chambers appears to be a guy Pitt fans can hate. And of course, he's one that you'd love as your own coach. Chambers stormed off the court for whatever reason following the game and it didn't look like Jamie Dixon could even get a word in with him in the traditional post-game handshake makeout fest.
Personally, I get what Chambers is saying here. And he seems to take it as more of a rivalry game than Pitt or Jamie Dixon (Adam will have more on that later). But yeah, if we're looking for this whole rivalry thing to take off in basketball, I could see Chambers being a big part of that. Dude's a good coach and, at first glance, looks like a fiery guy.
On Chambers, Cory Giger in the Altoona Mirror had some good perspective as well.
All in all, even if you felt coming in that there wasn't a rivalry between the two schools in basketball, this game and the aftermath really said otherwise. It's hard to envision the likes of Loyola Marymount and the like being a better OOC game for Pitt than Penn State.