Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defensive Improvement Boosts Time for Luther

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defensive Improvement Boosts Time for Luther

Article excerpt

The wheels of Pitt's frontcourt continue to spin as coach Jamie Dixon continues his hunt for the right mix of players to combat the Panthers' lack of size at center.

That's why there have been some games when Alonzo Nelson-Ododa has played or contributed the most and others when it has been starter Rafael Maia.

Recently, however, it has been sophomore Ryan Luther's time to shine as he has put together three good games in a row while displaying a completely different skill set than the other two.

Luther, from Hampton High School, has the ability to step out and hit some jump shots and become another weapon against zone defenses. The other two can't do that.

Dixon said Luther's progression has been what he would expect from a sophomore who still is learning, and Dixon has been extremely pleased with Luther's defensive improvement.

He said that the more Luther improves defensively, the more playing time he gets. In recent weeks, Dixon added, Luther's defensive work has dictated more playing time.

"I've said all along, Ryan is a little better offensively than the other two, Rafael is the best rebounder, and Alonzo we've felt was post defense, interior defense was better," Dixon said. "Ryan has improved on the defensive end, he was pretty good on the help side as a defender but not as good as a post defender but he's done a better job [there].

"So I think he is progressing as you might hope for a sophomore that we anticipated redshirting last year. He has obviously played well, he has earned his minutes, and we made that very clear to the team.

"He does give us something at that spot as far as the ability to make shots, he finishes pretty well around the basket and he makes free throws, too, so he is a guy I think if he can keep getting better defensively he will be a real asset to us."

Luther's numbers haven't been overwhelming, but he certainly has made his presence felt with plays or shots at key times, and that's exactly what the Panthers need from that spot.

Maia, the starter, has struggled against the bigger, more athletic centers in the ACC but has been able to provide rebounding and a bit of physical presence. …

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