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Pitt Back To Defense And Rebounding

We're not yet in Big East play yet and it's hard to get a good feel based on games against the likes of St. Francis and South Carolina State. That said, Pitt definitely appears to be getting better as a team and that's mostly due to better defense and rebounding.

As I mentioned in the notes from Pitt's win over St. Francis last night over at SB Nation Pittsburgh, Pitt has held teams to under 40% shooting from the field in their past five games combined. Heading into the week, defensive field goal percentage was actually an area where the Panthers were struggling, ranking in the bottom 2/3 of NCAA's Division I teams. But recently, Pitt's been much better there.

The other staple of Pitt's Five Moves of Doom keys to victory is rebounding. Against St. Francis, Pitt did pretty well in that department, winning the battle of the boards 39 to 18. Pitt's 16 offensive rebounds were nearly as many as St. Francis had in all.

But in the game, a disturbing trend continued.

Now, I think Ashton Gibbs is still capable of not only hitting big shots, but having huge scoring nights. But he again struggled hitting only three of his nine shots and on the season, is making less than 40% of his field goal attempts. That's not only bad for a shooter like Gibbs, it's even bad for an average guard.

I do think Gibbs will get better, but it should be noted that Gibbs hasn't always been a great shooter at Pitt. Before his breakout season last year when he hit nearly 47% of his shots, he made less than 40% on the season as a sophomore. And as a freshman, he made under 43% of his shots. Gibbs is an excellent shooter when he's on, but that hasn't been the case nearly as much this season.

Clearly Pitt shouldn't be asking him to shoot less, but the team's issue is that he's as close a thing to a 'go to' scorer that they have. If he can't fill that role, Pitt's going to have a hard time winning close games - especially against better competition. One thing that should help is the return of Tray Woodall, who's really developed into the team's No. 2 scorer.