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.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.