Men’s Basketball: Pitt aims to stay stingy against Loyola Marymount

Mens Basketball: Pitt aims to stay stingy against Loyola Marymount

By Nate Barnes / Sports Editor

The Loyola Marymount Lions from Los Angeles, a team historically known for its fast pace and high-scoring teams, average 79.8 points per game. That mark pales in comparison to when they scored more than 100 points per game in the late 1980s, but head coach Jamie Dixon still has Pitt prepared for Loyola Marymount’s up-tempo style.

“They press, obviously nothing close to back in the day,” Dixon said. “I found an old tape of a Loyola Marymount-UNLV game that they played back there and actually watched it this summer. It wasn’t the same pace game, but they’re pressing.”

Pitt (8-0) enters the nonconference contest Friday coming off its toughest game of the season, a 78-69 victory Tuesday against Penn State. Loyola Marymount (6-2) travels to Pittsburgh following their 73-69 triumph at University of California-Riverside. 

Anthony Ireland, a 5-foot-10-inch senior guard, leads Loyola Marymount to the Petersen Events Center as head coach Max Good’s most dangerous weapon. Ireland averages 18.9 points per game and 5.1 assists per game, both team highs. Dixon recognizes Ireland’s skill and ability to impact the game.

“They’ve got a very good guard, a very experienced guard,” Dixon said. “A guy who’s played a lot of minutes, had the ball in his hands for a lot of time. He’s a decision-maker, a playmaker and a scorer at the same time, so we’ve got to keep him in [check].”

The challenges presented by Ireland — whom Dixon referred to as, “Another guy that wants to get to the free throw line” — follow those offered by Penn State’s elite guards, Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill. 

Frazier scored 27 points Tuesday, and shot 7-of-8 from the free throw line. Newbill added 17 points and went 6-for-8 at the charity stripe.

The two players accounted for nearly a third of Penn State’s 69 points, and Dixon wants to see improvement in the way Pitt guards the opposition’s best scorer.   

“We’ve got to do a better job,” Dixon said. “They’re similar size-wise, quickness-wise. Frazier was a guy that wanted to go right. This guy wants to go left.”

Frazier’s scoring performance was the highest Pitt has allowed to any opposing player so far this season. Beyond that, Pitt’s starting duo of Cameron Wright and James Robinson has been successful at defending the perimeter, and Dixon said Pitt’s defense “has been pretty good.”

“Obviously, we’ve shut some guys down, kept them well below their averages early on, but the last game, obviously Frazier got some, and he got a lot at the end too, as we know when we had that 10-point lead,” he said.

Wright and Robinson will draw the task of defending Ireland throughout the game, and Dixon is confident that the Panthers can, at the least, limit Ireland’s effectiveness off the bounce. 

“We should not have trouble guarding the dribble,” Dixon said. “It’s always hard to guard the dribble, but we’re better equipped than in recent years in guarding the dribble.”

For Pitt, Lamar Patterson leads the Panthers into the matchup averaging 17 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game. Talib Zanna leads Pitt in rebounding, hauling in 7.3 boards per game. He also posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in Pitt’s win against the Nittany Lions. 

But it wasn’t just older players who benefited from the challenge of Pitt’s first close late-game deficit of the season.

Dixon said the experience was good for the Panthers’ freshmen, especially one player in particular who could see more time in future games — starting against Loyola Marymount.

“I think Josh [Newkirk, a freshman guard,] was tremendous,” he said. “You talk about playing solid basketball, and he was good. He was steady. Josh is one of the fastest guys, and we’ve spent a lot of time slowing him down. And he was the guy that slowed us down on offense today. He attacked a lot and got in the lane. I thought he was really good. We kept him in there because of that.”