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March 13, 2014

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Pitt vs. Wake Forest, ACC Tournament, March 13, 2014

Pitt 84, Wake Forest 55


PITT COACH Jamie Dixon, Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna

Q.  Coach, Devin Thomas had a great game yesterday.  How were you guys able to slow him down?  Looked like your length really bothered him. 

COACH DIXON:  We were really concerned about him.  Him and Williams were the guys we were really focused on, and Thomas was a guy we wanted to double-team.  Obviously, we came out, we were aggressive.  And we wanted to keep the ball out of his hands, but when he did get it, make it tough for him to play.  And I thought a big double-team early when we got the steal, took it from him on the double-team was key.  He's a very good player, very physical player, tough player, but I thought we did some good things to take him away from it, and I thought our defense was good on him for the most part.

Q.  Lamar, could you talk -- Talib got off to a real good start today.  How does that change your team when he's playing like that?  How does it change what you guys are able to do?

Lamar Patterson:  That's what we want to do, we want to get him going.  It's our game plan every game.  He's a big factor in what we want to do every game, defensively and offensively.  He got off to a great start.  He's a leader, he's a senior, and when you see him going, it just gets the ball rolling.  Everything was clicking.

Q.  Talib, what does a game like this do for you guys to get you rolling headed into the rest of the tournament?

Talib Zanna:  You know, just get -- like he said, they come out focused and ready.  They really get us ready for this game, and we were really prepared and focused.  I think from the freshmen to the seniors, everybody was into it.  The energy, you can see the energy on the bench and everybody was really ready to go.

Q.  Lamar, for you guys that have played so many close games, what does it do for you having a 29-point win?

Lamar Patterson:  It feels good.  We won convincingly.  We were able to get some of the guys who haven't played that much in there, and it gave some of the guys who usually do play a rest at the end of the game.  It was good.  That's how we want to win every game, but it's not possible in basketball.  We'll just take this and take the momentum and get ready for tomorrow.

Q.  Jamie, you guys got a bunch of offensive rebounds real early in the game and turned them into baskets.  Did that sort of set the tone for the way that you were able to play the rest of the game?

COACH DIXON:  We've made it very clear we've got to out-rebound people, and we've got to have good offense to get offensive rebound opportunities, so I thought we ran good offense, good sets against the zone and got good looks.  I thought Talib was really good passing out of the high post area, got us some good looks.  And the shots we did miss, we knew they were going up, and we were able to get to that weak side and offensive rebounding position. I just think really we moved the ball well.  I was amazed at halftime at our field goal percentage was 48 percent, and I felt, like, since we'd taken all good shots, it would have been higher than that.  But we had missed open shots, but that allowed us to get offensive rebounds.  But our execution I thought was very good.  Our unselfishness was evident from the start until the finish, and that allowed us to get the 14 offensive rebounds, especially the bunch early.

Q.  Lamar, in the second half, your scoring really helped propel the lead into the 20s and keep it there.  Coming out of halftime, what did you want to do to continue how you came into the half and then get out ahead for good?

Lamar Patterson:  We just wanted to play our game, take the open shots, move the ball.  I was on the other hand of getting the easy looks and knocking them down.  And it was a good way to start the half for the team, and we did what we were supposed to do, held onto the lead and got the W.

Q.  Can you guys talk about whether you felt like this was back to playing the way that you had prior to the injuries and the things that bothered this team in mid-season?  Did you feel like you guys were back to playing the way that you had early in the season and the way you started ACC play?

Lamar Patterson:  It was a good win.  Yeah, I guess you could say that a little bit.  But like Coach said, everyone is healthy, everyone is ready to go.  We're dialed in.  Today was just a sign of that.  We've got to just bring the same energy and same effort tomorrow, and then we'll see how it goes.

Talib Zanna:  You know, we came out, me and Lamar --  middle of the season, Lamar was kind of hurt.  I was hurt from my ankle and his wrist, and I think we're 100 percent right now.  We're ready to go.  We've just got to come out ready for tomorrow and get the win.

Q.  Coach, when you were talking about road wins and neutral site wins, that's kind of Selection Sunday talk.  Do you have a real concern that your résumé is not getting the respect it deserves?

COACH DIXON:  Not really.  I mean, we've done what -- obviously 24 wins and now a tournament win.  I guess the message I was giving to our players is how well we have played on the road, and now we're going to be playing on the road the rest of the way in our minds.  So that's what we've turned it into. We've won close games on the road, which is what you're going to need to do in this tournament play.  And that's really been our message going forward here.  We've won a lot of close games.  We've beat good teams on the road in neutral court situations, too, so -- and I think it's a combination of we felt confident, we've played well on the road.  But we had some home games where guys weren't healthy and weren't playing their best, and we obviously played through it, didn't play as well, but now we are.

Q.  Speaking of tournament résumé, do you feel like today was a must-win game in that situation, and do you feel like tomorrow is a game you have to win to get into the tournament, or is it more just a matter of are you focusing strictly on the ACC?

COACH DIXON:  Yeah, we're just trying to win every game like we always have.  We've obviously done a lot of things.  24 wins and now a 12th win in the ACC.  I think that goes without saying. Our thing is we're playing our best basketball.  We've got to be playing -- we're healthy now, we're playing -- I don't got a guy sitting here with a taped hand shooting jump shots, and that's never -- a right hand taped is never a good thing, and Talib is now jumping and finishing better.  We're playing our best basketball right now, and that's our feeling.  Our practice has showed that the last three days.  We had three guys that had very good practices, and everybody was out there.  We hadn't had that.  We were practicing without our guys, without these two guys, and it caught up to us.  Now we're back to where we were, and it's evident by our wins. We lost to good teams, too, at the same time.  We lost to good teams in some close games.

Q.  This is obviously a new experience for Pitt as an ACC Tournament participant.  I don't know how much you see beyond the game itself, but you had a lot of fans here.  They were loud, they were proud.  Do you have a sense of how your travelling, the excitement level compared to what you were used to in the Big East among Panther Nation?

COACH DIXON:  I think in a lot of ways this is going to grow for us, and I think people are going to be sometimes surprised.  I think we've seen it already in games we've played on the road, whether it be at NC State or down in Maryland.  But we have a lot of Pitt people throughout the Southeast region, and we've known that, and we've seen that.  And our demand for tickets for the ACC, I think, went beyond what we had in the Big East prior to.  I think it's hard to get to that Thursday game at noon or 2:00, but I think you're going to see -- because of a lot of Pittsburgh people moving south to the southeast, we've seen a lot of fans and a lot of interest. It's different, there's no question.  You've got different fans, I think, than the regular fans.  I don't have as many family members, so it's different in that regard.  But I think we're going to have the same numbers and maybe more when it's all said and done, and once we've figured out the routine.

Q.  What do you remember about the first North Carolina game, and what will you need to do differently tomorrow?

Lamar Patterson:  What I remember is we just weren't as effective as we should have been.  We had a lot of early foul trouble in the first half, slowed us down a little bit.  But I just think that that game is going to be a nice rematch to get back out there and play against them again.  It should be exciting.

COACH DIXON:  I remember we lost.  That's what I remember.  I think we're a better team now than we were.  Guys were struggling at that point.  I think we're a better team, and we need to show it.  But it's easy to say:  We've got to go do something about it, and we've got to play well.  They're good, very good, and they're playing well, as well.


COACH BZDELIK:  Give Pittsburgh a lot of credit; they hit us right between the eyes, and we were on our heels throughout the entire game.  We had some shots early on that fell for us yesterday and didn't fall for us today.  And there was separation because of the fact we couldn't keep them off the boards, and tried a variety of defenses.  We just couldn't keep them from getting to the paint.  I think they had 27 points on lay-ups in the first half, and we never recovered.

Q.  Jeff, did you see the energy today that maybe you guys had yesterday and just how a bad start can have a domino effect a little bit?

COACH BZDELIK:  Yeah, we were always on our heels.  All we did was discuss rebounding, and that was the No. 1 key.  And I think they had, what, three offensive rebounds in the first three or four minutes after we got stops.  I knew we'd have some match-up problems defensively, so we went with the zone.  It was effective against Duke, and it just -- we just couldn't stop them, to be honest with you. And then the inability to make some shots and to score, we just lost some confidence, and we've been fragile with that throughout the course of the year at times.  You got the score you got.

Q.  How do you foresee this next couple of weeks going?  Will you meet with Ron?  Will you guys talk?

COACH BZDELIK:  I'm just going to answer questions about the game.

Q.  Jeff, after the way you talked about Travis yesterday and how much he's meant to this program over the last four years, how disappointing is it -- or frustrating is it -- to see him go out with a game like he had tonight? 

COACH BZDELIK:  Yeah, I'm sure Travis had a lot of emotion, and you know, he had some good looks, didn't go down.  And, yeah, we have to remember these are young people that care deeply, and we went from a very emotional high last night, yesterday, to a frustrating, so to speak, day today.  They're young people who care deeply, and, hey, it's tough when you're out there and things aren't going well for you to battle through it.  Yeah, it's tough for Travis to have a game like this at this point.

Q.  Jeff, was this Travis's and Coron's last game at Wake Forest, and would you entertain the notion of a CBI invitation?

COACH BZDELIK:  That's for the administration.  Our only focus really was today, this game.  We had intentions to win it, and to not even think about a CBI, for example. Now, what the administration's feel is about that, I don't know, I haven't discussed that with anybody.

Q.  Coach, we saw Pat Riley in attendance today.  You had a couple stops with him in your career.  Was he here as a byproduct of his friendship with you or was he here by chance?

COACH BZDELIK:  I didn't know he was here, and I'm sad that he was here to see that.  (Smiling).

Q.  If you had a chance to play again, would you like to play a postseason game?

COACH BZDELIK:  We certainly don't want to go out like this.

Q.  Coron, what made things so difficult for y'all to find shots today?  What were they doing defensively to really deny you guys good looks?

CORON WILLIAMS:  I know from me, at times they were denying me, and when I came off screens, you know, the guys were hedging real hard, so it was tough for me to get good looks.  But Travis had a couple open looks.  He wasn't able to finish those, and that's all we can ask for is just good, open looks. You know, I'm not going to be able every game to come out and have as many open looks as I did yesterday, and other guys just have to step up.

Q.  Coron, it looked like, at the end of the first half, both you and Codi were able to get to the basket a little bit.  What happened there, and why wasn't that as effective in the second half?

CORON WILLIAMS:  Well, they had a few breakdowns, and I found myself a few gaps that I could get through, and Codi, he's great in transition, and he's a driver, and he was able to get in the lane and finish like he usually does. You know, we just took advantage of their breakdowns.

Post-Game Quotesheet

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