Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tighter Defense Is Key to Finish Dixon Still Believes Team Can Improve

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Tighter Defense Is Key to Finish Dixon Still Believes Team Can Improve

Article excerpt

There are five games left in Pitt's regular season, and the Panthers need to win at least two, or perhaps three, of those games in order to ensure they get to the NCAA tournament.

In order to do that, the Panthers are going to have to play better than they have in recent weeks.They are 1-3 in their past four games and had to scramble to come from behind Tuesday to beat Wake Forest.

Coach Jamie Dixon said that he knows the Panthers need to improve and, not surprising, he believes it has to come on defense. He has said that all season, yet after 25 games, there has been little, if any, upgrade.

Which raises a question - what makes Dixon or anyone believe the Panthers suddenly can play the kind of defense that could carry them deep into the NCAA tournament?

"We showed it from time to time," he said. "There were some great stops we made against Wake Forest. Confidence is a part of everything, a part of offense, a part of defense - you gotta have confidence to win.

"I am not going to make an excuse and say we can't do it - we can do it. I believe we can. We have had teams that started the season poorly in different areas and gotten better and, in some ways, this team has gotten better."

Dixon said he isn't frustrated with the slow development of the defense because he knows it is something very difficult to be good at. He also said it isn't realistic for the Panthers to try new wrinkles or change things, either. Instead, they have to focus on doing things better and trying to be fundamentally sound.

Pitt tried a 3-2 zone last week against Miami, and it worked to some degree, but the Panthers still lost, and Dixon said defensive breakdowns were a big reason.That new zone was an example of a new wrinkle he was willing to try, while at the same time stressing the need to improve the man-to-man defense, the foundation of his program. …

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