Saturday, January 2, 2010

Pitarresi: Pitt is tough on SU

Saturday, January 02, 2010

If you were surprised by Pittsburgh’s 82-72 upset of fifth-ranked and previously unbeaten Syracuse today, maybe you shouldn’t have been.

If you’ve watched the Panthers in recent years, you had to expect a dogfight, even with four of their top players from last season gone.

Why? Because Jamie Dixon is the coach of the Panthers and he is just tremendous at getting his team to play physical, defensive, possession-by-possession basketball. Not that there is anything wrong with SU. If you start 13-0, beating California, North Carolina and Florida along the way, you’re pretty good.

You get the idea, however, that SU is not comfortable playing Pitt, or being forced into Pitt’s style. The Panthers have beaten the Orange eight times in 10 games since Dixon became the coach in 2003. Jim Boeheim said his team has to become more physical, and that’s right, because the Big East is a physical league.

Hey, if Pitt doesn’t make 10 of 24 3-pointers and SU doesn’t shoot a miserable 1 of 13 from the same distance, or if Orange big men Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson scored more than two points between them in the second half, maybe we wouldn’t be talking about how tough the Panthers are. Still, the Orange, as talented as they are, can take a lesson from the Panthers.

Bowl hysteria

It’s been tough keeping up with all the bowl games.

There are so many of them, I’ve found myself checking out this one for five minutes, that one for 10, another for two. One that held my attention for a while, though, was Penn State and LSU in the Capital One Bowl. And I wanted Penn State, because it’s great to see a Northern team beat the SEC.

But, geez, I hated that personal foul penalty on LSU’s Lyle Hitt as the Tigers were driving to set up for a possible winning field field goal in the waning seconds. Hitt pulled Penn State’s Navarro Bowman off teammate Brandon LaFell after he was tackled. Bowman was obviously intentionally lying on top of LaFell, trying to get more time off the clock before the ball could be spotted for the next play. Hitt wasn’t gentle about it, but it wasn’t a dirty play by any means. A flag was thrown anyway, Hitt was given a personal foul, LSU was penalized back to its 36-yard line, and if the Tigers had any chance to win, it was badly reduced. Two plays later, it was all over.

I don’t blame Hitt one bit from pulling Bowman off the pile. How long was he going to have to wait for the ball to be spotted? And, Bowman’s play, while pretty sly, is not exactly in the spirit of the game.

Did Penn State deserve to win? Yeah, LSU deserved a shot at the end, too. An official threw a flag and didn’t let the game be decided by the players, That’s too bad.

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