Tray Woodall, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera

Pitt humiliates No. 19 Georgetown, responds after disappointing start


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.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.