No big-time scorer? No problem for the Pitt Panthers.
Tray Woodall became the first and only player to reach double figures for Pitt with just :39 left in a convincing 65-55 home upset of No. 6 Syracuse, and that was OK. Pitt played a team game against the star-laden Orange, getting 31 points from a very active bench. In comparison, ‘Cuse got just three from non-starters, of which they had perhaps more than they would have liked.
Woodall, natch, led the Panthers with 13 points, getting over the double-digit hump by calmly stroking free throws in the closing seconds. Steven Adams and J.J. Moore had the highest single-digit efforts for Pitt, with eight apiece. ‘Cuse got double-figure efforts from C.J. Fair (20 points), Brandon Triche (14) and Michael Carter-Williams (13), but wasn’t able to stop the Panthers or quiet the raucous capacity crowd in the Petersen Events Center.
Pitt’s evenly distributed scoring seemed to negate the usually stifling effect of Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. Syracuse laid back in the zone for much of the game, leaving Woodall free to bring the ball upcourt without hassle and pick the defense apart. When ‘Cuse finally started to press late, Pitt beat it easily with quick, decisive downcourt passes that led to easy baskets.
It was an interesting preview of what will be an ACC game next season. If ‘Cuse thinks they’re having trouble with Pitt’s transition offense, imagine what they’ll face next season, against the likes of Duke, NC State and North Carolina. Pitt, on the other hand, is vying to move back into the polls and become a contender in their final Big East season.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.