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Jamie Dixon putting NC State loss in rearview mirror - The Pitt News

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Jamie Dixon putting NC State loss in rearview mirror

Ryan+Luther+is+one+of+the+many+big+men+vying+for+time+in+Jamie+Dixon%27s+rotation.++Matt+Hawley+%7C+Staff+Photographer+
Ryan Luther is one of the many big men vying for time in Jamie Dixon's rotation.  Matt Hawley | Staff Photographer

Ryan Luther is one of the many big men vying for time in Jamie Dixon's rotation. Matt Hawley | Staff Photographer

Ryan Luther is one of the many big men vying for time in Jamie Dixon's rotation. Matt Hawley | Staff Photographer

By Dan Sostek / Sports Editor

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With frigid temperatures and possible snowfall looming, the Pitt men’s basketball team will escape the tundra and memories of a loss earlier than expected.

The Panthers will travel to Tallahassee Friday morning, hoping to move past a tough loss to the North Carolina State Wolfpack as they prepare to face the Florida State Seminoles. Head coach Jamie Dixon spoke to the media Thursday about letting go of Tuesday’s game, the level of play in the ACC and Pitt’s bench.

LOSING THE LOSS

Tuesday’s home loss to NC State was a low point of the season thus far, as Pitt’s 25-point halftime deficit was the largest the Panthers had faced in program history.

“Obviously we’ve tried to put that game behind us and get ready for Florida State,” Dixon said. “We’re really focusing on ourselves here.”

Dixon also highlighted that the Panthers’ level of play has needed improvement for more than a week, not just after the debacle against the Wolfpack.

“We’ve gotta go play better, and we know that,” Dixon said. “The last three games, turnovers have stood out a bit. That certainly needs to be taken care of.”

He also noted rebounding as a linchpin for success, an area where Pitt has recently faltered. The Panthers are 13-0 this season when they outrebound their opponent, as opposed to just 2-2 when they do not. They are 0-1 when they tie in rebounds.

Overall, the team still sports a 40.2 rebound per game average, tied for 42nd in the country.

“The rebounding, we’ve come up short, and we’ve got to get that figured out,” Dixon said.

Even with those struggles, the coach said they can’t take a lot from the last two losses.

“The two losses were two different things,” Dixon said. “We’ve played 18 games, we can’t focus on the two losses.”

AMAZING ACC

At his press conference following NC State’s win over Pitt, Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried said that of all his five seasons in the ACC, from top to bottom, this year’s conference sports the most competitive group of teams yet.

Dixon seems to agree with Gottfried’s diagnosis, praising the conference’s gamut of tough, evenly matched teams.

“I think [the ACC] is what we said it was gonna be, two years later,” Dixon said. “In terms of it all coming together, from top to bottom.”

With five teams in the AP Top 25, and other programs such as Clemson, Pitt and Notre Dame also proving strong, the conference is tough at the top while still respectable at the bottom.

“I think it’s become the toughest [conference] in the country,” Dixon said. “We all said in the first year it was going to happen, but I didn’t think we were at that spot. This year, I think we are.”

Dixon said the conference’s strength benefits Pitt..

“There are no teams that are going to go through our [conference schedule] like we are,” Dixon said. “You’re not going to get a down team twice. You’re not going to get a down team once.”

BIG MEN ON THE BENCH

Two of the past three games, Ryan Luther has seen double-digit minutes. In the other game? One minute played.

Dixon said Luther’s playing time fluctuates because of Pitt’s frontcourt depth, with Michael Young, Sheldon Jeter, Rafael Maia and Alonzo Nelson-Ododa all taking up spots.

“[Luther] can pass, he can put the ball in the basket,” Dixon said. “We have a lot of confidence in him. Mike’s been playing well. Sheldon’s had some really good stretches. Rafael was giving us what we needed.”

He said Luther, who is currently averaging 3.2 points and 2.6 rebounds in 9.5 minutes per game, has good attributes, but simply hasn’t produced as well as the other big men.

“Ryan does some good things defensively,” Dixon said. “But we’ve gotta get him better in some other areas. Offensively, he’s good against the zone. He’s a pretty active rebounder on the offensive rebounder.”

It all just comes down to depth and matchups.

“There’s five guys, and whichever guy doesn’t play is the guy we’ll get asked about,” Dixon said. “We understand that.”

Still, Dixon has readied Luther and all of the other big men, knowing that things can change in an instant each game.

“We’ve just gotta have them all ready,” Dixon said, “because you never know with foul trouble and all the things that could occur in matchups.”

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Jamie Dixon putting NC State loss in rearview mirror