PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — Three game losing streaks are not very common when it comes to discussing Pitt basketball the past decade. Since Jamie Dixon took over the program nine years ago, it has only happened three times.
Add to the mix an 0-2 start in Big East play and you have to start to wonder where this season is heading for the Panthers. Looking back at how they got here is our task today.
One of the primary reasons this team has slid as of late can be pointed to the amount of turnovers they are committing, a combined 44 over the past three games, including a season high 18 in the loss to Wagner of the NEC back on December 23rd.
Against the Cincinnati Bearcats on Sunday, the Panthers turned the ball over 17 times, keeping the Panthers off-balance offensively. Something that was not lost on their head coach who spoke to the media on Tuesday after practice.
“In the last game versus Cincinnati, I thought we would be better than we were in terms of execution,” said Dixon. “We had some turnovers against their press. We need to make good decisions when we have the ball.”
Senior forward Nasir Robinson who led the Panthers in scoring with 19 points versus the Bearcats, also was tied for the team high in turnovers with three.
“It’s a big problem,” he said. “Coach always tells us that 10 or less turnover a game. We had 17 the other night. That was a key factor in the loss. We are not taking care of the ball. Not being aggressive. We are on our heels and we need to carryover what we are learning in practice.”
Another major factor in this most recent three-game slide is the poor shooting from beyond the three-point arch. The Panthers are a combined 8 for 48 that equates to a miserable shooting percentage of 16%. It’s another stat that’s not lost on Dixon.
“I think we are going to better than we are no matter what we’re doing,” Dixon chimed. “I think every game is different. Against Cincinnati, we haven’t been able to hit a three when we needed it late. We’ve had some looks but we can’t get it to go down.”
Dixon has tried to get the club more outside shooting in practice to try to jump-start the club, but according to coach, he doesn’t want the kids to over think what they are working on.
“We’re getting out early and taking shots and trying to focus on that. We’ve shot it well in practice. Trying to get better shot selections is something you focus on and we need guys to knock down some open shots. We did a lot of things in practice that we are trying to improve on.”
Sophomore J.J Moore echoed the need to shoot better when given a chance to do so.
“We have been going cold, but each day we practice hard. We’ve been shooting well in practice but have been lackadaisical in the games. We have to play like we do in practice and pick it up.”
A key component still missing to the Panthers scoring woes is the lingering injury to point guard Tray Woodall who’s still suffering from an abdominal injury that’s forced him to miss six of the past seven games. Dixon dismissed the notion that surgery would have been an option when the problem was first diagnosed.
“It was going to have to heal naturally, Dixon said. “That’s what I had heard on this type of injury not that we’ve ever had it before. Obviously it’s gone on longer than we anticipated.”
Dixon didn’t rule out a chance for Woodall to return to the lineup versus DePaul tonight, but given the nature of the injury, it’s going to be up to the Brooklyn, NY native to make that call if he can go.