Pitt Looks To Turn Things Around

There likely are many viewpoints as to what the Pitt men's basketball team needs to do to halt a two-game losing streak, but for Panthers coach Jamie Dixon it's quite simple.

Pittsburgh (15-4, 5-2) needs to cut down on the turnovers and play better defensively against St. John's (12-7, 2-5) in a Big East matchup Thursday at 7 at the Petersen Events Center.

"We were looking forward to getting back on the floor after a disappointing loss Sunday, and we know where we need to improve,'' Dixon said. "We know we need to get better, because we didn't get it done in that game. Obviously, the rebounding stands out. We out-rebounded them by 14, but didn't win the game.

"So, that was based strictly on the turnovers offensively and defensively. So, we have to cut those down. Our numbers have been a little higher than we'd like, but we're working to cut them down. ... The guys are healthy. Jermaine actually practiced, and I think that'll help us. Hopefully, that continues.''

Coach Dixon referred to senior guard Jermaine Dixon, who dislocated a finger on his right hand during the loss Sunday at Seton Hall, but returned to the game and finished it.

Pitt had 20 turnovers against the Pirates, which led to the Panthers getting just 51 field-goal attempts, five less than Seton Hall. So, more shots are needed. But they have to shoot much better as well, especially on the perimeter, as Pitt has been more of an outside-shooting team this season.

Sophomore Ashton Gibbs (4-for-15, 1-7), junior Bradley Wanamaker (3-10, 1-1) and Jermaine Dixon (5-12, 1-4) were a combined 12-for-37 overall against Seton Hall with 3-for-12 shooting from 3-point range. The trio made just 11 of 39 the previous game against Georgetown, including 3-for-15 from long range.

"There's a combination of things to look at,'' Coach Dixon said. "You need to wonder if it's shot selection or just missed shots. In looking at it, we believe the shot selection is good. They're shots our guys normally make. (But) I think we need to recognize that when there's an open man, we have to deliver it to him.

"We've done that, but our offense is based on our perimeter guys. I think that's it, but when you say to go inside Nasir has had times when he's scored. And so has Gilbert, but those are going to be the guys. Gary and Dante have given us some production. Not as much lately, but when you turn it over you don't get enough shots. And that was our problem. We didn't get enough shots.''

Dixon did not believe the Panthers changed their scheme, but they just went with a strength. And that was the returning guards and outside shooting. Gilbert Brown, who has provided Pitt's only bench support and joins Nasir Robinson for inside scoring when centers Gary McGhee and Dante Taylor aren't getting points, believed more inside touches are needed.

"We've just got to be smarter with the ball and play better as a team,'' Brown said. "We had a lot of mental breakdowns offensively, and we let a lot of transition baskets get away from us to Seton Hall. So, I think we just have to pick things up in practice and work on our weak areas, and I think we'll be fine.

"We set a lot more perimeter screens to set up guys like Jermaine and Ashton and Brad to get shots. We actually run the same offensive sets, and I actually we need to get more touches down low just to work out of it. But there hasn't been any real change to the offense. The guards are more aggressive.

"(And) if we kick it down low we can either draw a double-team or be able to kick it back out for an open shots,'' Brown added. "Against Louisville, they went for the double-team all the time, so we need to create more off our down-screens and curls and can do that from down low.''

McGhee readily agreed, but believed the centers could be worked in as well.

"I think it can open up some shots for our guards if they can drop the ball into us a few more times to loosen it up,'' McGhee said. "I think if we can play a little more inside-out we can do that. But we'll see. I think we're doing all right.

"We just have to bounce back from these losses and get going again. ... It's just how the games have been going. Some teams are going zone, so it's tough for me to get more touches inside. So, we've been getting more chances for guys like Ashton, and I get mine after some penetration with layups and dunks.''

However it gets done for the Panthers, they'll get another chance against the Red Storm Thursday night at the Pete.

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