Well, that helps.
Pitt wasn't perfect tonight against Florida State, but they were good enough for a 73-64 win. The Panthers still didn't shoot all that well, but the effort level was just where it needed to be on so many fronts.
First things first - win No. 300 for Jamie Dixon. I know that the win, technically, is no different than 298 or 299, but it's also a time to reflect and look back on his career. Dixon has been truly remarkable for Pitt and when you consider that his hire was a very questionable one after Ben Howland left, it's hard not to sit back and appreciate all that he's done. The detractors will always be there until he gets to a Final Four, and that's fine. But to make the NCAA Tournament in 10 out of 11 years while running a clean program is beyond doing your job. Congrats to Dixon on a great career so far.
Unless you saw the game, I can't really describe it. I won't say this was the Pitt of old, and certainly, a lot of what happened tonight had to do with the opponent. But the Panthers were just much more active and willing participants than they have been in previous ACC contests this year.
Chasing after loose balls, holding their own on the glass despite being undersized, making smart plays - the team just looked much more ready to play than they did this weekend.
One talking point for Thursday will not only be the insertion of walk-on Aron Phillips-Nwankwo, but his impact. He didn't have a huge game, but then again, how often do you see a walk-on come into a game against a conference opponent and score five points in non-garbage time? I don't want to overstate what he did in the game, but to give Pitt both quality minutes and points to boot was a big deal. He had seven points and played the most in a game that I can remember.
How much will we see him from here on out? Don't hold your breath, I guess. But against a taller lineup where Pitt needed some toughness, you have to like what he did. Jamie Dixon could conceivably go to him again. He provided some toughness against a taller lineup and gave the team a spark offensively when they needed it.
Overall, four Pitt players got into double figures - Mike Young, Cam Wright, Chris Jones, and Jamel Artis. Young led the way with 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Jones gave the team 15.
One thing that annoyed me were the gaffes made by Pitt's upperclassmen late in the game. The Panthers were trying to close the game out and James Robinson and Cam Wright pretty much stumbled while crossing the finish line. Robinson missed two free throws on a technical foul then two more with a couple of minutes left while Wright missed two out of three from the charity stripe and also turned the ball over. Hey guys, you do realize your the leaders of the team, right? You should be helping to close the game out, not the reason why Pitt isn't. Get it together.
The duo was also 4-15 from the field and has seen better days.
But, hey, overall, I'm not complaining too much here. Now, to declare Pitt being back would be pretty foolish. After all, this is the first time this year that Pitt has really looked good in a conference game. But if your mindset is that the team needs to take baby steps to getting better, you were likely pleased with the game tonight.
Pitt played with a lot more passion - something that was clearly lacking against Clemson in the last game. And while they didn't play perfectly, you have to mostly pleased with the game tonight considering the team's struggles leading up to this point.
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