Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Day After

While I attempt to recover my voice from screaming at the refs and Jamie Dixon last night I will give a day after perspective on last night's City Game.

First things first I need to give a lot of credit to the Pitt team. They came into the game confident, prepared, and most importantly they executed. At the start of the game Pitt took advantage of their experience in big games and hostile environments and ran to a 14-0 lead. Sam Young (pictured right) in particular deserves credit for Pitt. Young hit every open shot he was allowed and made the Dukes pay for their mental mistakes. Early in the game Young hit a big shot and flexed for the crowd, essentially taunting the Duquesne fans at the A.J. Palumbo Center. This upset me at the time, but Young backed up his cocksure attitude with strong play and a Pitt victory.

Levance Fields (pictured left) may not have had a great night statistically for Pitt but his ball handling skills were invaluable. Duquesne applied full court pressure on Pitt the entire game, and Fields dribbled the ball up the court on most possessions. His superior dribbling skills forced Aaron Jackson into foul trouble, and helped Pitt eliminate the type of costly turnovers that the Dukes prey upon. Fields also helped seal the game with 4 consecutive points in the final minute of the game.

Keith Benjamin impressed me. He came off the bench for Pitt and provided strong defense. The fact that Kojo Mensah and Gary Tucker shot a combined 3-18 from the field last night had a lot to do with the great defense played by Pitt's guards. A young Gilbert Brown also showed flashes that he will be a key part of Pitt's future with confident mistake free play in limited action.

Duquesne head coach Ron Everhart abandoned his two platoon system last night. During a post game interview Everheart admitted that he decided before the game that Pitt's bench was too deep for the two platoon system to be effective. Everhart leaned heavily on Shawn James, (pictured below left) who played 38 minutes, and Kojo Mensah who played 32 minutes. James responded well to the tough Pitt team, and the adversity early in the game with huge blocked shots that got the crowd into the game. James also, for one of the first times this season, was a major force on the offensive side of the floor, especially in the paint scoring on the younger and less experienced Dejuan Blair of Pitt. Blair got into foul trouble midway through the game and seemed hesitant the rest of the way on the defensive end of the floor. Kojo Mensah had a tough game for Duquesne, he was 2-12 from the field, and was called for traveling late in the game on a crucial possession for the Dukes.

Kudos to Dejuan Blair, an 18 year old true freshman who scored 10 points and had 9 rebounds, 5 on the offensive glass for Pitt last night. Blair also led Pitt with 3 steals. Clearly Blair is going to be a major contributor for Pitt this season. Cracking the starting lineup of a top ten team as a true freshman and giving effective minutes is a rarity and deserves to be mentioned. It is also nice to see a local kid play so well for a local school.

All in all the Dukes played valiantly, but could not overcome their mistakes and poor shooting against a tough highly ranked Pitt team. I'll say it again though, if Pitt is a top ten team, and the Dukes only lost by 5 after making a lot of mistakes, I like Duquesne's chances for a strong season in 2007-08.

Starkey's article includes this prediction:
"Let's make a prediction right here: Duquesne (6-2) will finish with a winning record, a feat they haven't accomplished since 1993-94 under John Carroll. Don't be surprised if they wind up in an NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977, either. "

I like the way Starkey thinks


Scoville said...

Love the blog - keep up the good work.

I was at the game - and man, how frustrating was that? Woulda, coulda, shoulda...

Aside from coming out as tight as we did, I thought the other thing that killed us were the tickey-tack fouls Aaron Jacksn picked up. I thought the officiating was poor overall (and for both teams), but that Aaron got the worst of it. If he doesn't get those 2 really cheap foul calls - and can stay guarding the ball longer down the stretch - I think we pull out the game. Fields & Ramon had bad games because of Jackson's defense.

Ultimately though - you can't expect to win games shooting so poorly, so I hope that this game has given them that "big game" experience that they were so sorely lacking last night, and they won't come out so nerve-y next time.

The Duke said...

Thanks for supporting Dukes Court Scoville.

Aaron Jackson's foul trouble really hurt the Dukes, he was playing such a strong game on both offense and defense. What a gutsy ballplayer huh?

As for the officiating, I can't objectively comment, but overall I thought they did a mediocre job at best. I am not going to pull a Baltimore Ravens and blame the refs, the Dukes lost that game with poor shooting.

I agree with you about Ramon he was a non-factor, but honestly i think he isn't a big part of Pitt's gameplan on most nights.

Even though Fields didn't score much, and he shot poorly, he had those 4 points in the last minute that sealed the game, and was a solid floor general for Pitt. Every great team needs a point guard. Fields played that role last night for Pitt.

What really killed Duquesne was the horrible shooting from Achara and Mensa, those two simply didn't show up last night. Both of those guys are great players, and when you are pulling for an upset you need great performances from your great players.

Let's hope the Dukes can rebound against WVU on Saturday.

I wish I could go down there for the game but i have a previous engagement.

Scoville said...

Both teams, I'm guessing, would agree with your description of the officiating. They probably evened out for both teams - but losing Jackson hurt a lot. He had a really strong game - I was waiting for him to try a 3 - he's usually good for a momentum 3. You're right though - the refs didn't give Pitt the win. Spotting a team as good as Pitt 14 points is not the way to win a game.

Down the stretch - I guess the plan to work the ball inside to Kieran. That sort of worked to a certain extent. Do you know if Kieran hurt? He struggled a bit against Niagra too. I wonder if Saunders gets more of those crunch time minutes next time.

The WVU game has me nervous. They've been playing really well. They just waxed Auburn. I was at the WVU game last year when they shoot around 70% from behind the line and crushed us by, what - around 40? I'm sure the team does too, so yeah, time for some payback.

The Duke said...

I am still recovering from the Pitt loss to have any desire to look at WVU yet, but yeah they are a good team, and of course they have Bobby "Heart Attack" Huggins leading the way.

As far as Kieron being hurt, I haven't heard anything, but if i do, I'll post it asap.

Something I failed to mention is the physical strength of the Pitt players. Just looking at the arms of the Pitt guys made it obvious how much stronger they are than the Duquese players. Kieron has never played well against bigger stronger guys.

Every free throw Pitt had the Pitt rebounders were able to out muscle the Dukes. This was evident at the end of the game when Sam Young grabbed that HUGE rebound after Biggs missed both of his free throws.