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Pitt Basketball: Bench Play Stepping Up

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We all know about Pitt's early struggles this year. Part of it was due to some weak offensive play from the bench.

I've pointed out before that Pitt's bench had been composed primarily of freshmen and sophomores. That's since changed a bit since Khem Birch has been starting and Dante Taylor's been playing there, but this is still a very young team.

Pitt wasn't getting much in the way of contributions from its reserves and that showed in some close games. Through Pitt's first five games, the bench had topped 20 points only once and had averaged less than 13 points a game. But things have changed over the past five outings.

Over Pitt's last five games against Robert Morris, Duquesne, Tennessee, VMI, and Oklahoma State, the bench has come alive. The reserves have scored at least 20 points in every game except Tennessee (17). The result? The team has averaged just under 30 points per game - more than double what they had been producing.

So what's been the difference?

Other than a whopping 47-point effort against VMI, the main thing is probably the infusion of Taylor into the bench. In the four games he's played since he returned from missing a couple of contests with migranes, he's averaged more than ten points per game.

I'm starting to come around to the idea that Taylor should regain his starting spot, but I really don't know that I'd change things right now. Taylor clearly is giving the bench some much needed offense and rebounding. If Birch went back to the bench, he could make up Taylor's rebounding, but probably not his offense.

The bench is clicking now and it makes little sense to change things right now.