PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) -- Coming off a turbulent 2011-12 campaign, and having inserted two unproven players into the starting lineup, it is fair to say Jamie Dixon's squad was a team in transition entering the 2012-13 season. Through the first ten games, however, being in transition has been a good thing.
In good times, and in the few bad ones, the defensive prowess of the Panthers has sparked their offense. Entering Saturday's 7:00 non-conference contest against Bethune-Cookman at the Petersen Events Center, Pitt leads the country with an overall 2.05 assist-to-turnover ratio, a number that stood at 4.20 in last Saturday's 89-47 blowout of visiting North Florida.
The Wildcats rank just inside the top one-quarter of Division I schools with an average of 12.6 turnovers committed per game.
"We've tried to [force more turnovers] in other years in the past. Maybe it's the personnel, maybe it's a better emphasis on it, I don't know what it is, exactly, but it seems as though we're doing a better job," Dixon said after practice Thursday.
Bethune-Cookman, sitting in the middle of the MEAC pack, comes to town with a 4-7 mark, while the Panthers' only loss came against a No. 3 Michigan team that befuddled them with a 1-3-1 defensive alignment. But generally, when they've had trouble penetrating a zone, they've been able to mask those warts by shooting lights-out off those turnovers, and taking advantage of fast breaks.
Pitt went to work in the off-season wanting, collectively, to improve its speed. Redshirt sophomore guard Cameron Wright, who registered a season-high ten points and three steals off the bench versus UNF, believes that work is paying rich dividends.
"We've been working hard since April, running hills, and whatnot, so our bigs can run. Steve [Adams] can run, Ta' [Talib Zanna] can run, and so can Malcolm [Gilbert] and Dante [Taylor]. Because of that, it allows our guards to get out in transition," Wright said.
He went on to speak about the chemistry inside Pitt's locker room, which certainly seems like a healthier environment than it was roughly a year ago at this time:
True freshman James Robinson knows a thing or two about smooth transitions. He's made one into a Pitt uniform, leading the team in individual assist-to-turnover ratio (5.25), averaging 7.4 points and 4.2 assists per game from the point, and already notching a Big East Rookie Of The Week award in his belt.
"I wish, sometimes, the big men would even be a little more selfish when they get the ball, but, across the board, we're unselfish, and I think that's one of the reasons we've been successful so far," Robinson agreed.
"I think being aggressive on the defensive end is creating easy transition points for us. That's one thing we're going to need to continue to do: continue to force turnovers, and continue to get those easy buckets on the offensive end."
Pitt ranks in the top ten nationally with 53.9 points allowed per game.
Robinson has been impressed thus far with the ability of the frontcourt to finish their offensive chances:
Hear the Panthers and Wildcats live on SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan, your flagship home of Pitt men's basketball, Saturday night, with Jim Colony and Dick Groat on the call, and with Panther Gameday, featuring Andrew Fillipponi and Julius Page, starting at 6:00.
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