PITT CAPTURES LEGENDS CLASSIC
by Ray Floriani
NEWARK, NJ – Pitt captured the Legends Classic defeating Texas Tech in the semifinal and Washington State in the championship. The tournament, played at the Prudential Center , not only gave the Panthers another trophy and legitimized their ranking , but drove home a crucial point, they can beat you at your pace or theirs.
Facing Texas Tech, Jamie Dixon’s club went up against a team that pushed the ball and had the green light on three point attempts. Washington State , on the other hand, favors a slower half court pace and is much more methodical. Pitt handled both challenges in impressive fashion. A tempo free look at both contests:
(76 possession game)
The tempo free breakdown gives a graphic illustration of the difference of Pitt’s opposition game plans in the two games. One thing that was consistent was the Panther defense. Holding an opponent under 100 is good. Under 90 is outstanding and will increase anyone's college basketball odds of winning exponentially. Another point to consider is Pitt faced quality teams on both nights. As Jamie Dixon said after the final,” I would be really surprised if any of these teams were not playing in the NCAA tournament in March.”
An individual note on the Panthers:
Sam Young – Earned tournament MVP honors. Scored a team high 24 points in the semifinal and a game high 15 points to go along with 8 rebounds in the final. Young showed his versatility by taking the ball to the basket or hitting the perimeter shot. A constant threat for opposing defenses both nights.
DaJuan Blair – Simply a force in the paint. Had a double-double (15 points 11 rebounds) in the semifinal. Blair followed up with a workmanlike 7 point 10 rebound effort in the championship. Was the other Panther to join Young on the all-tournament team. Blair was a handful for opponents to say the least and a major reasons Pitt owned the backboards both nights.
Levance Fields – The senior guard didn’t shoot the ball very well over the two nights. Fields did score 14 points in the final. A significant point total and boost to the offense in a game where points and possessions were at a premium.
Tyrell Biggs – Provided a good inside presence on both nights. Proved that if you give too much defensive attention to Blair and forget about Biggs, he can take up the slack.
Jermaine Dixon – Shot the ball better against Texas Tech (8 points). The junior guard did pull down 5 rebounds and go 5 of 6 from the line in the championship.
Bench – solid. Jamie Dixon even went with an all freshman backcourt of Travon Woodall and Ashton Gibbs midway through the first half to give his starting duo (Fields and Dixon) a breather. The frosh did a good job in relief.
Jamie Dixon on the tournament: “I think the second night we played smarter. We definitely got better this week. I think we came away from here with a better idea of how we wanted to execute our offense and guard people.”
Washington State coach Tony Bennett – “We were dog tired at the end. Pitt does not give up any easy stuff (On defense). Our kids reached a new level of fatigue.”
Final note: Pitt forced 15 turnovers against the cougars. “In a game with fewer possessions those 15 turnovers are huge,” Bennett said. “Especially since they led to 17 points (off turnovers).”
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