Pitt didn't run away from their opponent in their first exhibition basketball game. On Friday night, they had an even more difficult time in an 82-71 win over Division II Philadelphia.
The Panthers' 11-point win doesn't really show how close of a game it truly was. Pitt trailed at halftime by a point and had trouble pulling away in the game. The Panthers led by only four at about the halfway point of the second half.
Philadelphia kept things close but ultimately ran out of steam. Why, you ask? Well, I mean, they played the entire game with five guys. That's right - five.
Philadelphia hung around until about five minutes left and then ran out of gas --- They had four guys play 40 minutes and a 5th play 39.— Paul Zeise (@PaulZeise) November 8, 2014
For Pitt Mike Young had another dominant game with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but Durand Johnson may have been an even bigger story, scoring 19. I've given DJ a lot of flack before for his inconsistent shooting, but while it's only one game, he played really well, knocking down seven of his ten shots and connecting on 4-7 shots from three-point range. The offense is going to need to come from somewhere when the defense, like tonight, isn't up to par. If he can consistently be efficient on offense, it will go a long way to helping.
James Robinson scored 16 for Pitt dishing out eight assists. Derek Johnson led Philadelphia with 34 points.
On Derek, Durand Johnson and Chris Jones were the ones covering him on defense. Despite good offensive games by those two (Jones had 11), Jamie Dixon called out their defense afterwards:
Dixon on Johnson and Jones: "They’re not getting it done [on D]. They were guarding the guy that had 34"— WPTS Sports (@WPTSSports) November 8, 2014
I'm not sure where I am on the concern level here. I still like the makeup of this team, but allowing a Division II team to shoot nearly 50% from the field in your building while only allowing four turnovers isn't a great start. Philadelphia is one of the better D-II teams, but to have this kind of trouble early on isn't encouraging.
It's early in the year and for that reason, so to panic at this point over a couple of close exhibition games would be foolish. That said, to sweep the past two contests under the rug as if they don't count at all isn't a reasonable stance, either. This team is still learning to play together and as we've seen, there are going to be some growing pains along the way. This may be a team that is pretty good by the end of the year, but they have a lot of work to do.
Part of the close game can probably be explained by head coach Jamie Dixon still trying to sort out his rotation. That said, tinkering time is over with the exhibition games now complete.
Pitt will be playing for keeps in the next one.
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