Created on Friday, 16 November 2012 00:23 Written by Jeremy Tepper / Staff Writer
After lambasting Lehigh on Tuesday, the undefeated Pitt men’s basketball team wants to continue its impressive start with another victory.
In search of its fourth consecutive win at the start of this season, Pitt will welcome Oakland University (Mich.) to Oakland, Pittsburgh, when the Panthers (3-0) host the Golden Grizzlies (1-2) at the Petersen Events Center this Saturday at 7 p.m. The game can be viewed online at WatchESPN.com.
The Panthers have dominated their first three opponents, winning the games by an average margin of 31 points. Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon says that his squad has improved greatly in the past few weeks.
“It’s been a good week for us,” Coach Dixon said after the Lehigh game. “We went eight straight days, had a day off prior to that. And we’ve gone about — without breaking NCAA rules — 15 of 16 days. And we’ve gotten much better during that time period.”
Now Pitt will hope to stay on the right track with a victory over a struggling Oakland team.
Usually one of the better teams in the mid-major Summit League, head coach Greg Kampe’s Grizzlies have lost two of their first three games. Oakland is still trying to replace the recently graduated Reggie Hamilton, who was last season’s top scorer in the nation at 25.7 points per game.
But this season’s Grizzlies boast a more balanced offensive attack, with four players averaging at least 13.7 points per game. Junior guards Duke Mondy and Travis Bader lead the team in scoring, averaging 19.3 and 18.7 points per game, respectively.
Pitt freshman James Robinson will likely get the job of guarding one of the two, and Coach Dixon has high praise for his young point guard’s defensive abilities.
“[Robinson] is deceptively athletic. He’s got good size, he’s smart, he’s tough,” Dixon said. “It’s very rare to have a freshman who can defend as he can.”
Pitt point guard Tray Woodall must also play well defensively if Pitt plans on containing Oakland’s talented backcourt, but Dixon is confident in his team’s senior leader.
“I think he’s going to make this team a great defensive team. It starts with him,” Dixon said of Woodall.
Although Oakland’s offense has been explosive, its defense has lagged behind this season.
The Grizzlies allow 80 points per game, and the Panthers should have no problem exploiting this weakness.
Possessing a deep scoring attack, Pitt has averaged 81 points per game, with Woodall and junior forward Talib Zanna both scoring about 16 points per game.
Zanna has been the Panthers’ most improved player early this season, mostly due to his improved mid-range game and finishing ability.
“I just worked on that during the summer, staying in the gym and just practicing on my mid-range and post moves,” Zanna said.
Besides Woodall and Zanna, several other Pitt players have made key offensive contributions. Eight players have averaged at least four points per game, including junior forward J.J. Moore and freshman center Steven Adams with 12.3 and nine points per game, respectively.
Pitt’s depth is a key strength, and against Lehigh, everybody contributed.
“Everyone played well — all 10 of our guys,” Dixon said.
The reason Dixon has seemed so pleased with Pitt’s first three performances is because the Panthers are excelling in the two facets of the game that their coach loves most: defense and rebounding. Pitt has out-rebounded its opponents by 14 boards per game, while holding opposition to a mere 51 points per game.
Woodall said that the coaches have stressed defense this year.
“We preach defense now,” the senior point guard said.
After Oakland, the Panthers’ next game comes against No. 5 Michigan on Wednesday, Nov. 21.
With a prime-time matchup against the Univeristy of Michigan Wolverines at Madison Square Garden in New York City looming, Pitt must avoid overlooking Oakland.
“We’ll have Thursday and Friday to prepare for Oakland, and I think we’ll be ready to go Saturday. That [Michigan] game is eight days away,” Dixon said.