PITTSBURGH — After watching No. 4 Pitt’s 57-54 win at No. 9 Villanova, I’ve come across some concrete opinions on the game and the team to date.

Some are good and some are bad. Let’s cover it all, in no particular order…

– Travon Woodall is a scapegoat for criticism for many Pitt fans, but he should be commended for his work the past two games. On Saturday night, Woodall played very smart. He didn’t turn the ball over and took smart shots while filling in for injured guard Ashton Gibbs. Now many of those shots didn’t fall as he shot 3 for 8 from the field, but he hit a big 3-pointer that put Pitt ahead for good. And, again, he was smart in shooting the ball. He only fired up shots when he was wide open. He has time to develop his offensive game and Pitt fans need to remember that many current stars on this Pitt team went through rough patches, only to come out a better player in their latter years.

– Freshman J.J. Moore saw early playing time along with fellow freshman Lamar Patterson. Problem is, Moore looked his age. I thought he made poor decisions shooting the ball. In the first half he passed up an open jumper to drive in to a clogged paint and turn the ball over. He also chucked up a fade away jumper while heavily guarded. In the second half he missed a dunk. His biggest contribution of the game was getting fouled on a 3-pointer and hitting 2 of 3 foul shots. Patterson seemed to be Pitt’s most valuable contributor off the bench, playing 14 minutes and seeing time late in the game.

– Speaking of bench play, it was basically non-existent for Pitt at Villanova. The bench provided just three points and wasn’t effective enough to give the starters much of a break. Each Pitt starter played at least 25 minutes — Gilbert Brown, Nasir Robinson and Brad Wanamaker each played at least 35 minutes. The bench produced just 11 points at WVU — the only other game Pitt has played without Gibbs. In turn, Pitt’s seniors have had to shoulder most of the load and have done very well.

– Gilbert Brown had five turnovers against the Wildcats. That’s half of the team’s total. Brown turned the ball over twice in the first half and three times at the most crucial point of the game — the last five minutes. His turnovers resulted in eight Villanova points. He needs to be more responsible with the ball as a senior. He’s one of the better free throw shooters on a team that struggles in the department and, come tourney time, Jamie Dixon will need Brown to be an option late in games.

– Much of Pitt’s second half success should be credited to protecting the ball. Pitt went over 15 minutes to start the second half without turning the ball over. That’s huge with Gibbs out of the lineup. The Panthers had a stretch of almost 17 minutes in the second half at West Virginia where they turned the ball over just once. In both games, Pitt overcame a sloppy and unproductive first half to win. That right there shows if you play smart basketball you’ll almost always win.

– Nasir Robinson just flat out wanted it more than anyone else on either team in the first half Saturday night. Multiple times he went flying out of bounds because of extra-effort plays. He had seven points and four rebounds in the first half and really kept Pitt close at halftime, allowing the Panthers to continue to play their game in the second half and come back to win.

– Villanova’s Mouphtaou Yarou is the first player I can remember this year that physically controlled the boards when matched up against Gary McGhee. McGhee had just five rebounds, two offensive, while Yarou finished with 10 rebounds and 4 on the offensive glass. Yarou also finished with 15 points while McGhee had just six. Points mean less in this matchup because McGhee’s game is more about defense and rebounding. Nevertheless, I thought this battle was eye opening.

– Isaiah Armwood’s intentional technical foul was just that — intentional. Whenever I go to put my arm around someone, I don’t do it with a closed fist. Armwood tried to play it off, but it was clear there was intent to punch Robinson. It was a joke. There’s no other reason for him to be looking behind him other than the fact that he knew he messed up and did something wrong. Credit Robinson for holding back and not reacting with a punch of his own.

Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog

Watch & Listen LIVE