Pitt to open season against Niagara Friday

The Pittsburgh Panthers look to stifle the Niagara Purple Eagles in their season-opener Friday night at the Petersen Events Center after lackluster defensive performances in their exhibition games.

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon has worked his way to 288 career victories in just 11 seasons by building his teams year-after-year on two tenets of basketball: defense and rebounding. Ideally, the Panthers will hold their opposition to below 40 percent field goal shooting and out-rebound them by at least 10 boards.

When Pitt meets those statistical markers, the Panthers usually come out with a victory.

But after allowing Indiana (Pa.) and Philadelphia University to shoot a combined 47.6 percent from the field in two exhibition games, it's no wonder the Panthers may not be satisfied with their defense entering the regular season despite winning each contest.

"Our two exhibition games were poor defensive displays from us," sophomore forward Mike Young said. "Terrible, actually."

In the week since, Young says the emphasis on defense didn't change from the weeks leading up to the two games. Rather, the team's attitude and approach made the adjustment.

"There’s just been more intensity and more enthusiasm on defense," he said. "And taking pride in it and trying to get stops."

When the Panthers take the floor for their season-opener against the Niagara Purple Eagles Friday night, they'll face a team similar to Philadelphia in that Niagara utilizes an undersized lineup.

"They’re all guards on the court," Young said, "even their four and their five are pretty much guards."

Dixon also noted Niagara utilizes undersized big men who can shoot and drive at the power forward and center spots, something he admitted "something we didn’t do a great job of guarding the other day."

Due to the undersized lineup, Young could see increased minutes at the center spot to combat the match-up problems posed by the Purple Eagles. Young offered that him at the five and Sheldon Jeter and/or Jamel Artis at the forward spots could be the team's "go-to" lineup, and that he doesn't shy away from stepping into the middle.

"Last year I guarded every team’s best five," Young said. "So this year playing the five and guarding the best big is nothing new. Whether we play Niagara or Indiana I think I’m going to play the five in both games, just as much."

On the perimeter, junior point guard James Robinson

"Not leaving our teammate on an island, things like that," Robinson said. "Making sure we rotate, making sure we’re talking so it’s all things we worked this week to correct and I think we’re ready."

Young and Robinson were key contributors in the two exhibition games, with Young averaging 22.5 points on 64.3 percent shooting next to nine rebounds per game. Robinson put up 11 points and seven assists per game.

Junior forward Durand Johnson, despite dealing with a sprained ankle, looked healthy in his last outing when he scored 19 points against Philadelphia last week.

Niagara enters Pittsburgh off a 7-26 season in which the Purple Eagles went 3-17 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. They return just two starters from last year's team and have 10 new players to work in this season.

Forward Ramone Snowden is back after he put up 8.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last year, as is guard Wesley Myers who scored 6.7 points per game. Niagara has a massive void to fill with the loss of leading scorer Antoine Mason who put up 25.6 points per game last season.

Even though the Purple Eagles won just seven games last season, Young and the rest of the team know they can't take their competition from the MAAC lightly. Especially at this time of the season.

"Every team’s confidence is high from Division I to Division III," Young said. "They’re going to come out very confident and this is going to be one of the biggest games of the year for them so they’re going to want to come out and prove themselves and show what they can do."

Regardless of attitude, though, Friday's game will come down to one factor for Dixon.

"Simply put, we’ve gotta hold teams below 40 percent defensively...and we didn’t do that."



NOTES

--Senior guard Cameron Wright (broken foot) will be evaluated next week, likely before the team leaves for Hawaii. Head coach Jamie Dixon said Wright will also have another X-ray done.

--Senior forward Derrick Randall (ankle) practiced the last two days after he did not play in either of the team's exhibition contests.

--Junior forward Durand Johnson is still bothered by his sprained ankle which he sustained over a month ago in the early days of practice. Dixon said it's limited Johnson to half-participation in practice and games.


Panther More Top Stories

\r\nFollow @PantherDigest\r\n\r\n

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon has worked his way to 288 career victories in just 11 seasons by building his teams year-after-year on two tenets of basketball: defense and rebounding. Ideally, the Panthers will hold their opposition to below 40 percent field goal shooting and out-rebound them by at least 10 boards.

\r\n

When Pitt meets those statistical markers, the Panthers usually come out with a victory.

\r\n

But after allowing Indiana (Pa.) and Philadelphia University to shoot a combined 47.6 percent from the field in two exhibition games, it's no wonder the Panthers may not be satisfied with their defense entering the regular season despite winning each contest.

\r\n

\"Our two exhibition games were poor defensive displays from us,\" sophomore forward Mike Young said. \"Terrible, actually.\"

\r\n

In the week since, Young says the emphasis on defense didn't change from the weeks leading up to the two games. Rather, the team's attitude and approach made the adjustment.

\r\n

\"There’s just been more intensity and more enthusiasm on defense,\" he said. \"And taking pride in it and trying to get stops.\"

\r\n

When the Panthers take the floor for their season-opener against the Niagara Purple Eagles Friday night, they'll face a team similar to Philadelphia in that Niagara utilizes an undersized lineup.

\r\n

\"They’re all guards on the court,\" Young said, \"even their four and their five are pretty much guards.\"

\r\n

Dixon also noted Niagara utilizes undersized big men who can shoot and drive at the power forward and center spots, something he admitted \"something we didn’t do a great job of guarding the other day.\"

\r\n

Due to the undersized lineup, Young could see increased minutes at the center spot to combat the match-up problems posed by the Purple Eagles. Young offered that him at the five and Sheldon Jeter and/or Jamel Artis at the forward spots could be the team's \"go-to\" lineup, and that he doesn't shy away from stepping into the middle.

\r\n

\"Last year I guarded every team’s best five,\" Young said. \"So this year playing the five and guarding the best big is nothing new. Whether we play Niagara or Indiana I think I’m going to play the five in both games, just as much.\"

\r\n

On the perimeter, junior point guard James Robinson \r\n

\"Not leaving our teammate on an island, things like that,\" Robinson said. \"Making sure we rotate, making sure we’re talking so it’s all things we worked this week to correct and I think we’re ready.\"

\r\n

Young and Robinson were key contributors in the two exhibition games, with Young averaging 22.5 points on 64.3 percent shooting next to nine rebounds per game. Robinson put up 11 points and seven assists per game.

\r\n

Junior forward Durand Johnson, despite dealing with a sprained ankle, looked healthy in his last outing when he scored 19 points against Philadelphia last week.

\r\n

Niagara enters Pittsburgh off a 7-26 season in which the Purple Eagles went 3-17 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. They return just two starters from last year's team and have 10 new players to work in this season.

\r\n

Forward Ramone Snowden is back after he put up 8.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last year, as is guard Wesley Myers who scored 6.7 points per game. Niagara has a massive void to fill with the loss of leading scorer Antoine Mason who put up 25.6 points per game last season.

\r\n

Even though the Purple Eagles won just seven games last season, Young and the rest of the team know they can't take their competition from the MAAC lightly. Especially at this time of the season.

\r\n

\"Every team’s confidence is high from Division I to Division III,\" Young said. \"They’re going to come out very confident and this is going to be one of the biggest games of the year for them so they’re going to want to come out and prove themselves and show what they can do.\"

\r\n

Regardless of attitude, though, Friday's game will come down to one factor for Dixon.

\r\n

\"Simply put, we’ve gotta hold teams below 40 percent defensively...and we didn’t do that.\"

\r\n

\r\n

NOTES

\r\n

--Senior guard Cameron Wright (broken foot) will be evaluated next week, likely before the team leaves for Hawaii. Head coach Jamie Dixon said Wright will also have another X-ray done.

\r\n

--Senior forward Derrick Randall (ankle) practiced the last two days after he did not play in either of the team's exhibition contests.

\r\n

--Junior forward Durand Johnson is still bothered by his sprained ankle which he sustained over a month ago in the early days of practice. Dixon said it's limited Johnson to half-participation in practice and games.

\r\n","mobileBody":"

Follow @NateBarnes_ Follow @PantherDigest

Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon has worked his way to 288 career victories in just 11 seasons by building his teams year-after-year on two tenets of basketball: defense and rebounding. Ideally, the Panthers will hold their opposition to below 40 percent field goal shooting and out-rebound them by at least 10 boards.

When Pitt meets those statistical markers, the Panthers usually come out with a victory.

But after allowing Indiana (Pa.) and Philadelphia University to shoot a combined 47.6 percent from the field in two exhibition games, it's no wonder the Panthers may not be satisfied with their defense entering the regular season despite winning each contest.

\"Our two exhibition games were poor defensive displays from us,\" sophomore forward Mike Young said. \"Terrible, actually.\"

In the week since, Young says the emphasis on defense didn't change from the weeks leading up to the two games. Rather, the team's attitude and approach made the adjustment.

\"There’s just been more intensity and more enthusiasm on defense,\" he said. \"And taking pride in it and trying to get stops.\"

When the Panthers take the floor for their season-opener against the Niagara Purple Eagles Friday night, they'll face a team similar to Philadelphia in that Niagara utilizes an undersized lineup.

\"They’re all guards on the court,\" Young said, \"even their four and their five are pretty much guards.\"

Dixon also noted Niagara utilizes undersized big men who can shoot and drive at the power forward and center spots, something he admitted \"something we didn’t do a great job of guarding the other day.\"

Due to the undersized lineup, Young could see increased minutes at the center spot to combat the match-up problems posed by the Purple Eagles. Young offered that him at the five and Sheldon Jeter and/or Jamel Artis at the forward spots could be the team's \"go-to\" lineup, and that he doesn't shy away from stepping into the middle.

\"Last year I guarded every team’s best five,\" Young said. \"So this year playing the five and guarding the best big is nothing new. Whether we play Niagara or Indiana I think I’m going to play the five in both games, just as much.\"

On the perimeter, junior point guard James Robinson

\"Not leaving our teammate on an island, things like that,\" Robinson said. \"Making sure we rotate, making sure we’re talking so it’s all things we worked this week to correct and I think we’re ready.\"

Young and Robinson were key contributors in the two exhibition games, with Young averaging 22.5 points on 64.3 percent shooting next to nine rebounds per game. Robinson put up 11 points and seven assists per game.

Junior forward Durand Johnson, despite dealing with a sprained ankle, looked healthy in his last outing when he scored 19 points against Philadelphia last week.

Niagara enters Pittsburgh off a 7-26 season in which the Purple Eagles went 3-17 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. They return just two starters from last year's team and have 10 new players to work in this season.

Forward Ramone Snowden is back after he put up 8.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last year, as is guard Wesley Myers who scored 6.7 points per game. Niagara has a massive void to fill with the loss of leading scorer Antoine Mason who put up 25.6 points per game last season.

Even though the Purple Eagles won just seven games last season, Young and the rest of the team know they can't take their competition from the MAAC lightly. Especially at this time of the season.

\"Every team’s confidence is high from Division I to Division III,\" Young said. \"They’re going to come out very confident and this is going to be one of the biggest games of the year for them so they’re going to want to come out and prove themselves and show what they can do.\"

Regardless of attitude, though, Friday's game will come down to one factor for Dixon.

\"Simply put, we’ve gotta hold teams below 40 percent defensively...and we didn’t do that.\"



NOTES

--Senior guard Cameron Wright (broken foot) will be evaluated next week, likely before the team leaves for Hawaii. Head coach Jamie Dixon said Wright will also have another X-ray done.

--Senior forward Derrick Randall (ankle) practiced the last two days after he did not play in either of the team's exhibition contests.

--Junior forward Durand Johnson is still bothered by his sprained ankle which he sustained over a month ago in the early days of practice. Dixon said it's limited Johnson to half-participation in practice and games.

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