Men’s basketball notebook: City Game, turnovers and Gary McGhee

By Jay Huerbin

Best of the ‘Burgh

Pitt, which improved to 5-1 overall after beating Youngstown State on… Best of the ‘Burgh

Pitt, which improved to 5-1 overall after beating Youngstown State on Saturday, will take on Duquesne Wednesday night in the annual City Game. The Panthers lead the all-time series 46-31 and have won the last eight matchups.

This year’s game will have a retro feeling to it because it will take place at the Mellon Arena for the first time in seven years. It’s also the last collegiate basketball game at the arena.

“It’s great for the people,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. “It’s got a special place in the hearts of many people — and it should. And we’re just happy to be a part of it … I’m glad we’re doing it.”

From 1990-2001, the two teams played at the Civic Arena, which was later renamed the Mellon Arena. They’ve played there 36 times since the first game in 1961.

This game, though, like any rivalry, can get personal for the players.

“It’s more [of a rivalry] for the players,” Dixon said. “As coaches, we only play against each other once [a year]. For the players, they’re more familiar with each other, and a lot of them know each other from before they got here.”

Turning it over

In their 72-56 victory over Youngstown State on Saturday, The Panthers turned the ball over 17 times. It was the second 17-turnover game (Wichita State) in three contests and fourth consecutive game with more than 10.

But earlier in the season, Pitt was on the other side.

The Panthers returned only one starter, Jermaine Dixon, but he hasn’t appeared in a game yet. Because of the young team, Dixon was surprised by the team’s early season success with ball possession.

“We were praising our low turnovers early in the year, which was unexpected at the time, given our personnel,” Dixon said. “But we have turned it over too many times lately… and we’ve turned it over late in games when we’ve had leads, which I thought was disappointing.”

Against Wofford, the Panthers committed nine turnovers. In their next game, it was even better with only six turnovers against Binghamton.

Dixon said his goal for the team is to have less than 12 turnovers per game. Pitt averages 12.7 turnovers heading into its matchup against Duquesne.

Most of the team’s turnovers come against zone defenses, something Dixon said shouldn’t happen. But, he said, it’s still early in the season.

“We got to get a few things together right now,” Dixon said. “But that’s what every team is doing at this point.”

Gary getting better

Junior center Gary McGhee, who’s started in all six games for the Panthers so far this season, set a new career high in points (12) against Youngstown State. He also came down with 10 rebounds.

It was his second consecutive double-double performance of the season after his performance against Texas.

Dixon praised McGhee’s improvement.

“With Gary, you just saw him getting better and better,” he said. “We always talked to him about taking that next step, and it really just snowballs once you get some confidence.”

Part of that confidence, Dixon said, comes from improving on three areas of his game.

“The biggest things are playing with patience at the post, balance and keeping the ball up,” Dixon said. “He’s been finishing some plays and playing well at defense.”