Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ireland 2010 -- Pittsburgh Defeats the Irish National Team 99-54

The Runnin' Panthers?
The University of Pittsburgh opened their tour of Ireland with a 99-54 drubbing of the Irish National Team before 1,650 fans in Neptune Stadium, in Cork, Ireland. Team Ireland led 6-2 in the first quarter, but were stunned by a 15-0 run and never recovered. The Pittsburgh basketball site has the official boxscore and game recap/story. For those interested in following the daily comings and goings of the team, the site also provides a daily blog of the tour.

The game was played for a slightly surprising 74.1 possessions, well above the Panthers' 62.9 possessions from the 2010 season (consistent with previous seasons pace), and more consistent with an exhibition game. The efficiencies and Oliver's four factors:

Irish National Team72.939.319.627.621.6

Probably the best predictor of the result was the nearly identical allocation of minutes among the players (see below). Had the Irish offered much resistence, Coach Dixon no doubt would have allocated a few more minutes to the starters. The offensive efficiency, field goal efficiency (eFG%) and offensive rebounding numbers were predictable. A team accustomed to winning most of their board battles in the Big East handled the Irish National Team easily. The FTA/FGA was low, about 18.9 points below their 42.8% of 2010. The product of an unusually high 3FGA/2FGA ratio (35.8% vs 2010's 29.1%) possibly, or more likely the point spread through much of the second half -- Pitt led by 12, 48-36, at half-time, but blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring Team Ireland 24-10. Putting up another 27 fourth quarter points, and Pitt outscored Ireland in the second half to the tune of 51-18, a truly overwhelming performance. With scoring that disparate, there was no reason to force the issue and get to the line. The Panthers' 29% turnover rate is the one sour note on the contest, but consider that the staff reached very deep into the bench and no doubt mixed player combinations to the point where unfamiliar pairings had to work together. The very large leads throughout the second half may have encouraged a more relaxed attitude about possessions, or a bit more creative playmaking. As the table below suggests, the problem appears to have centered on only a handful of players.

Nasir Robinson45.016.413.3156.7100.01.8875.0
Gilbert Brown45.034.139.8116.783.31.7116.7
Gary McGhee45.013.810.0120.166.71.5566.7
Brad Wanamaker47.528.318.9165.583.31.7433.3
Ashton Gibbs47.543.747.199.856.71.130.0
Travon Woodall45.032.319.969.450.01.000.0
Dante Taylor45.018.516.6112.560.01.1160.0
Talib Zanna45.017.313.399.175.01.500.0
Lamar Patterson45.036.426.581.743.80.8637.5
J.J. Richardson45.04.86.6207.0100.02.0550.0
Nick Rivers45.06.96.631.

While it is silly to draw broad conclusions based on a single exhibition game (or tour for that matter), possession and shot rates suggest what most Pitt observers have been saying since the end of the 2010 season -- that the offense will run through junior point guard Ashton Gibbs and senior forward Gilbert Brown. This was the fourth consecutive off season in which Pitt observers have predicted a "break out" year for the athletic forward. Maybe they are right this time. Luke Harangody racked up possession and shot rates in the 33%-35% range last season, presenting problems for Notre Dame's offense. Look for Gibbs' and Brown's possession and shot rates to drop as the tour goes on. And next season, something in the 27-29% range, provided Brown holds to those same efficiency numbers (and Gibbs can elevate his a bit) will earn both players conference (and most likely national) recognition. A look at the assist rates and rebounding...

Nasir Robinson15.37.97.718.30.03.0
Gilbert Brown0.07.915.317.60.00.0
Gary McGhee0.015.97.721.70.03.0
Brad Wanamaker71.20.07.310.10.08.5
Ashton Gibbs36.
Travon Woodall26.
Dante Taylor0.031.738.
Talib Zanna0.031.738.334.70.00.0
Lamar Patterson21.323.823.
J.J. Richardson0.
Nick Rivers5.

The board domination is led by rising sophomores Dante Taylor and Talib Zanna, two front court players who had less impact than many expected their first year out. I will be interested to see how Coach Dixon works them into the rotation.

Pittsburgh will play the Southern Regional All-Stars in Neptune Stadium on Sunday, then travel to Dublin to continue their tour.

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