Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Adjustments Difficult for Pitt Reserves

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Adjustments Difficult for Pitt Reserves

Article excerpt

John Johnson and Cameron Wright are searching for some long-lost magic in their games. The only problem for the Pitt reserve guards is that they now have to find it in fewer minutes each game.

Johnson and Wright arguably played their best games Jan. 16 at Syracuse. Johnson was 3 for 4 from the field and scored nine points and Wright was 4 for 6 for 10 points.

They were part of a stellar effort from the bench in a losing effort against the Orange. Pitt's reserves scored 30 points that night to help keep the Panthers competitive in a 71-63 loss to the No. 1 team in the nation.

Point guard Tray Woodall returned to the lineup for the next game against Louisville, and the young reserves have found it difficult to grasp their new roles.

In the seven games since Syracuse, Wright has scored a total of four points. Johnson, who averaged 6.1 points per game when Woodall was out, has scored 20.

"They have to be productive in the shorter minutes," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "That's what they did when we won four in a row. They're trying to get better. We're trying to get them better in practice. The minutes, there are only so many. It's a situation Travon and Ashton [Gibbs] were in years back."

Dixon could make some changes tonight when the Panthers play host to West Virginia at Petersen Events Center. He was not specific about potential moves, but he would like to get more contributions from his reserves.

"We have to look at our rotation and do a better job," Dixon said after the loss to Seton Hall Sunday afternoon.

Pitt's bench was outscored in the consecutive losses at South Florida and Seton Hall. In the seven games since Woodall returned as the starting point guard, the reserves have contributed an average of 11.6 points per game. In the six Big East games Woodall missed, the reserves contributed an average of 15.6 points.

Johnson and Wright, who each started in Woodall's absence, have been unable to find their niche in the revised rotation. Small forward J.J. Moore also has seen his minutes slashed. The only reserve playing major minutes is center Dante Taylor, whose production has been inconsistent.

The minutes for Wright and Johnson have fluctuated since Woodall's return. Wright played 15 in the first game against West Virginia two weeks ago, but played 13 minutes combined against South Florida and Seton Hall. Johnson played 16 minutes against South Florida, but a season-low six against Seton Hall.

Senior forward Nasir Robinson can sympathize with Wright and Johnson. As a freshman, Robinson struggled to find his place in the rotation. He averaged only 6.4 minutes per game.

"I just tell them to keep working," Robinson said. "I know how they feel. I've been through that as a freshman. I just tell them to keep working and not give up. There will be times when you come in and play two minutes, or 30 seconds or whatever. …

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