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Pitt basketball notebook: Dixon, Robinson speak on NC State - The Pitt News

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Pitt basketball notebook: Dixon, Robinson speak on NC State

Anthony+%22Cat%22+Barber+and+the+NC+State+Wolfpack+will+take+on+the+Panthers+at+8pm+Tuesday+night.++Jeff+Ahearn+%7C+Assistant+Visual+Editor
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Anthony "Cat" Barber and the NC State Wolfpack will take on the Panthers at 8pm Tuesday night. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

Anthony "Cat" Barber and the NC State Wolfpack will take on the Panthers at 8pm Tuesday night. Jeff Ahearn | Assistant Visual Editor

By Dan Sostek / Sports Editor

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Sporting a 2-0 record at the Petersen Events Center since Pitt joined the ACC, North Carolina State won’t quiver in fear against the 14-2 Pitt Panthers.

Head coach Jamie Dixon and James Robinson talked to the press on Monday, discussing NC State players Anthony “Cat” Barber and BeeJay Anya as well as the now-unranked Panthers’ increased turnover rate.

CAT ATTACK

NC State’s top weapon is guard Cat Barber, a foe with whom Pitt is more than familiar.

In last season’s ACC Tournament, the speedy guard torched Pitt, tallying a career-high 34 points in an 81-70 victory that dashed any hope of the Panthers making the tournament that year.

Barber has followed up that performance this season dynamically. He currently leads the ACC in scoring, averaging 21.8 points per game.

“Barber is the guy we’ve got to contain. Obviously he had the big game against us last year, we certainly remember that,” Dixon said. “And what we saw last year is what he is doing this year. A guy that can really get to the basket, really score, and we’ve got to contain him.”

Dixon understands that hoping to blank out Barber is a fool’s errand. Instead, they just want to limit him.

“He’s gonna get shots, he’s gonna get some points,” Dixon said. “But we can’t let him shoot at a high percentage.”

While Pitt needs to focus on Barber, Robinson said they also have to note the remaining talent on NC State.

“It’s gonna be a team effort to slow him down,” Robinson said, “But we know they have other players that can spot up and shoot, too.”

Dixon said the team is using redshirt guard Jonathan Milligan to simulate Barber’s speed and quickness. He said the Panthers will rely on ball screens and defending the transition to limit Barber.

Still, he knows that Barber is even better than when they last saw him March 2015.

“I think he’s shooting the ball better from three and midrange,” Dixon said. “He was always a good midrange shooter, but it’s now three and beyond. He’s playing an unbelievable amount of minutes, so that has something to do with his numbers as well. But he’s always been good.”

INCREASE IN EFFICIENCY

Early on in the season, turnovers were sparse for Pitt, as they limited themselves to just 10.7 per game.

Over the past two contests, Pitt has struggled with controlling the ball, turning it over 19 times against Louisville Thursday and 17 times against Boston College, increasing the team’s average to 11.5 per game

While acknowledging that not all turnovers are equal, Dixon says he would like to see an improvement in that area.

“Obviously the numbers are a concern to us, and [efficiency] is something we take great pride in,” Dixon said. “Our goal is to have 10 or less a game, which would put [us] among the leaders in the country, which we’ve always been.”

Dixon and his point guard both pointed out that they picked up a rare number of odd turnovers Saturday against Boston College, such as multiple hooking fouls and a charge off of a pass.

Robinson wasn’t overly concerned with the two-game spike.

“[We just need to] be fundamentally sound,” Robinson said. “Passing with two hands, not trying to thread the needle as much. We have it figured it out now, and we’ll be back to being a low-turnover team tomorrow.

BATTLING WITH BEEJAY

NC State’s starting center, BeeJay Anya, is an imposing figure, listed at 6-foot-9-inches, 285 pounds. He currently leads the ACC in blocks per game with 2.8.

Even with his presence down low, Robinson said Pitt will not alter its post-first approach.

“We’re not going to change anything we do, we’re still going to be an inside-out team,” Robinson said. “[We’ll] make him play defense. We know he blocks a lot of shots, but that’s not going to change anything we do.”

Dixon says the team is focused on Anya’s ability on both sides of the court.

“His things on the defensive end, offensive rebounding, that’s what we’re really concerned about,” Dixon said.

Dixon highlighted the Wildcats’ average 16 offensive rebounds per game, thanks to Anya and Abdul-Malik Abu, stating that the big men get a lot of their points off of second-chance opportunities.

“[Offensive rebounding], that’s something we’ve stressed,” Dixon said. “And Anya, he’s a big part of that.”

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Pitt basketball notebook: Dixon, Robinson speak on NC State