Tristan Tschoepe - A tremendous game by two bitter rivals. We're still rivals right? Its been since 2005 when the Panthers and Nittany Lions played each other in hoops and that was an absolute massacre by Pitt (91-54). Back then it was Carl Krauser for the Panthers who was the leading scorer and LeVance Fields only came off the bench. Oh how times have changed. Penn State hit rock bottom, won the NIT, and is now fiery with attitude. Meanwhile Pitt has achieved the #1 ranking in the AP Poll, #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and a lay up away from a Final Four trip. A very different tale for each team since 2005.
Read more after the jump...
From Happy Valley
Penn State was coming off a OT win vs St. John's and a 3 pt loss to Ole Miss. With a 6-2 record, PSU fans have a team they are gaining confidence in. The Lions played much better than I anticipated, and showed they could really hang with Pitt. A less-than-4-point game throughout the first half kept me on the edge of my seat. Penn State went into the half, without making a 3-pointer, up 30-28. You're not supposed to be able to go on the road against a power team as the underdog, and be leading at the half, going 0-6 from beyond the arc. That doesn't happen. But Chambers had his guys fired up. However, the PSU weakness we all know was discovered by Pitt after halftime. As soon as I saw Pitt start attacking the lack of PSU big men, I knew we were in trouble.
Time Frazier showed that he was the best player on the court, and arguably one of the best PGs in the nation. He is a pure scorer who is incredibly quick off the dribble, and showed it turning corners off a ball screen almost all night. He hit some incredible contested shots while driving to the hoop, and he was able to keep PSU in the game. Knowing Frazier (who we called Timmy Two Points his FR and SO years) was leading the team, made my PSU bros and I believe a win was attainable.
Then came the last 8-ish minutes.
Penn State went up 59-58 on a Donovan Jack layup. A mystery foul was called on Frazier on a Pitt fast break, and the momentum significantly changed, and a 11-3 Pitt run ensued. The Pitt big men physically destroyed the PSU front court, and the lack of big man depth really showed. Donovan Jack, Brandon Taylor, and Ross Travis could not hold their own in the last minutes of this game, and Pitt built up their lead. The game was within reach just about to the end, but Pitt was able to pull away. The better team won, but man would PSU want another shot at the Panthers.
From the Oakland Zoo
Frazier had one of those games were it seemed like every shot he took was going to drop. Frazier (27 pts), made some ridiculous shots, like that of the one you see in the photo accompanying Mike's portion. While Pitt won the game, Frazier was still the star. I think that Pitt could have done a significantly better job defending Frazier since he made quick work off a pick and roll every single time.
Pitt stars Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna were uncomfortably silent. When the first half was over, Pitt was down 30-28 and the normally comfortable cushion Pitt had built in every game prior suddenly wasn't there. But in the second half they came to life. Both finished with near identical lines (Patterson 16 pts, 9 rebs, Zanna 16 pts, 10 rebs). Zanna made it look easy late in the game matched up with PSU bigs Donovon Jack and Ross Travis. It's almost as if Jamie Dixon forgot Penn State had no front court in the first half. But the waning moments of the second half are what sealed it for the Panthers. Clutch free throw shooting is what was ultimately the difference in this game. PSU got into foul trouble, some players were a little timid, and that paved the way for Pitt to be physical til the very end.
When the game went final, and Pitt escaped with the win, you can't help but tip your hat to what Coach Chambers has done to this Penn State team. Although, attitude can only do so much to compensate for less talent. Pitt is the better team but weren't playing like it for most of last night. Pitt does not have a prototypical scorer, I'm sorry Patterson/Zanna, but its neither of you two. The poor shot selections and missed lay ups really hurt the Panthers last night. When trailing this team showed very little patience- something Coach Dixon needs to stress.
This was a great win for the Panthers as we move closer and closer to conference play in our new home, the ACC.
TT - I think I speak for all of Pitt when I say that it's been too long. With West Virginia leaving the Big East for the Big 12, Pitt lost its biggest rival. But the move to the ACC has allowed the NCAA to revive a basketball rivalry that has been dormant for 8 years. With the football teams scheduled to play in a couple years, this sets the table for that. Even with the season in a very infant stage, the match up between Pitt and Penn State will always be highly contested.
HAIL TO PITT!