Tray Woodall, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera

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.

Jennings becomes seventh player to transfer from Kentucky

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell watches his team during the team's regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament against Washington in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 25, 2016. Washington won 85-72. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell has announced that sophomore forward Alexis Jennings will transfer, the seventh Wildcat to leave the program since last fall.

Jennings’ departure comes a week after Mitchell publicly addressed the mass exodus of players and assistant coaches and stressed the need for building stability. Jennings figured to be part of that process and the coach said in a release Wednesday night that “it saddens us that Alexis did not see a path for her at Kentucky. … She felt it was in her best interest to finish her career elsewhere and we owe her that opportunity.”

The 6-foot-2 Jennings started 18 of 33 games last season and averaged 10 points and 7.1 rebounds.

DePaul adds 2018 commit

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Wisconsin guard John Diener has committed to DePaul, his grassroots program announced Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-4 Class of 2018 guard ends his recruitment rather early with offers also from instate schools Green Bay and Milwaukee. He’s known as a shooter and becomes the first commit for Dave Leitao in the 2018 class.

Diener, who plays with the Wisconsin Playground Warriors in the spring and summer, commits to the Blue Demons with them coming off a disappointing campaign, Leitao’s first in Chicago. DePaul went 9-22 overall and 3-15 in the Big East, finishing only ahead of St. John’s.

DePaul has been recruiting the Midwest hard with incoming 2016 recruits from La Lumiere School in Indiana, Sagninow, Mich. and locally in Chicago.

Four-star guard Fisher commits to TCU

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Jamie Dixon’s presence is already being felt in the Big 12 and on the recruiting trail.

TCU received its first commitment of the Dixon era when four-star 2016 point guard Jaylen Fisher announced his decision to join the Horned Frogs on Wednesday.

“Due to how comfortable my family and I are with the coaching staff,” Fisher posted from his Twitter account, “and the emphasis the university has put on making basketball a priority, I’m committing to be a student-athlete at TCU.”

Getting a consensus top-75 prospect, who was once committed to UNLV, is a heck of a coup for being just a couple months on the job. It instantly shows the Frogs are going to be a player for some of the country’s top players, which is a necessity if you have designs on making a move up the ladder of arguably the country’s best league in the Big 12.

Maybe the most gratifying thing for TCU, though, is the reason Fisher publicly stated for making his decision, the school’s “making basketball a priority.” The hoops program has suffered immensely in the Big 12 (while the football program has flourished), winning a total of eight games in their four seasons (including a winless 2014), but the school sank $72 million into renovating its arena, made an aggressive move in firing Trent Johnson and then went out and got its dream candidate, Dixon, an alum. Fisher’s commitment is the first time those moves have shown that commitment to basketball paying off.

 

Report: Izundu’s San Diego State transfer ban rescinded

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Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu will be visiting San Diego State after all.

Coach Ernie Kent has rescinded his restriction on the 6-foot-10 graduate transfer from visiting the Aztecs, according to a report from the Spokesman-Review, citing an anonymous source. Izundu will also be reportedly visiting Fresno State and UNLV.

Izundu had previously been barred from considering the Aztecs by Kent because of suspcisions of tampering. Izundu vigorously denied that was the case as at the center of the dispute was a trip he made to San Diego for spring break. He publicly said he did not have any contact with the SDSU coaching staff , though he attended an Aztecs NIT game.

Kent, though, appears to have relented, as many coaches who have similarly faces public pressure in such situations before him have. In this era where so much attention is being paid to player rights and welfare, there only seems to be growing public sentiment against programs restricting transfers beyond the absolute bare minimum is rarely going to go over well. It may make things more difficult for coaches and programs, but it’s the deck is largely already stacked in their favor in most every other instance.

Ex-Michigan State player Keith Appling faces weapons charges

Keith Appling
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DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) Authorities say former Michigan State basketball player Keith Appling faces charges including carrying a concealed weapon after he was found in possession of guns and marijuana in suburban Detroit.

The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says 24-year-old Appling was arrested outside a Dearborn club on Sunday night. Club security called police after seeing a man pull a gun from the trunk of a car.

Prosecutors say Appling was in the driver’s seat of the car when police arrived. Officers found a handgun under the driver’s seat, a loaded weapon in the trunk and a small amount of suspected marijuana.

Weapons and marijuana possession charges were announced Wednesday.

The court says he doesn’t have a lawyer on record.

Appling played for the Spartans from 2010-2014 and plays for the NBA’s development league.