Pitt humiliates No. 19 Georgetown, responds after disappointing start

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pitt never went home after their loss to Rutgers in New Jersey on Saturday night, instead opting to head directly to DC, a region five players spent their high school careers.

The 67-62 loss, which required a second half rally form 14 points down just to make the score respectable, dropped the Panthers to 0-2 in the Big East, a bad omen given their lack of non-conference schedule strength and the 0-7 start Pitt had to league play a season ago.

And since allowing a roster full of college kids to have a couple days worth of down time with their high school buddies isn’t exactly the best way to rejuvenate focus for one of the season’s most important games, you can understand why Jamie Dixon and his staff went back and forth on whether or not to stay in DC.

“We were there for so long,” Dixon said after Pitt’s 73-45 mollywhopping of Georgetown, the worst home loss the Hoyas have suffered since the 1971-72 season. “Yesterday, I wasn’t feeling good about the decision. Today? I’m feeling pretty good.”

And he should be.

All of the Panthers should be.

Because they played their best basketball of the year in the season’s most important game to date.

Pitt couldn’t afford another loss to kick off their Big East schedule, not when their best wins prior to the start of league play were Lehigh and Detroit; not when their Big East opener involved blowing a lead at home to Cincinnati, which happens to be the only game that the Bearcats have won in their last four; not when they were coming off of an embarrassing loss to a Rutgers team that is improving but still a long way relevant; not when the sting of a 5-13 Big East season and a trip to the CBI was still fresh in the minds of the players in the Pitt program.

“We let the first one, two games get away from us. Two teams that we think we should have beaten,” senior point guard Tray Woodall said after the game. “But there’s no panic. We just know that we had to come out and get this win. This road trip, two games, we wanted to make sure we go home with at least one win.”

The difference for the Panthers, according to Woodall, came on the defensive end of the floor, where they “wanted to come out and be the aggressor.” Cut down open looks on the perimeter, pressure ball-handlers in the half court and attack the defensive glass. Pitt did just that, as Georgetown — an admittedly awful offensive team right now — never got into anything close to a rhythm on that end of the floor.

“I think our guys are recognizing what we’ve been trying to get across to them defensively,” Dixon said.

But the key to the game had much more to do with Georgetown’s defense than Pitt’s, as the Panthers absolutely shredded what had been one of the stingiest groups in the country coming into the game. Pitt was able to get penetration from Woodall and James Robinson, they knocked down their open threes and they got to the offensive glass. While their total number of points may not be all that impressive, it is when you consider that they put up 73 points in 59 possessions — or 1.237 PPP — against a team that, even with Tuesday’s hideous performance factored in, is allowing just 0.871 PPP on the season.

Pitt thoroughly humiliated a good Georgetown team on the road in a game that they really needed to win.

That’s what good teams do. And that’s how good teams handle adversity.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Dixon said, “and how we responded to a disappointing start.”

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.