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Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

Pitt 62, Virginia Tech 57, OT

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Looking ahead to tipoff ..

Game: No. 25 Pitt (19-4, 7-3 ACC) vs. Virginia Tech (8-14, 1-9)

Time: 12:05 p.m.

Site: Petersen Events Center

TV, radio: Root Sports, 93.7 The Fan

Here is the official live summary.

Here is our Pitt pageKevin Gorman is on the scene.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.


  1. NBC will be covering Sochi virtually all weekend. In the meantime, hopefully, Pitt can beat VaTech today.

  2. Jim S. says:

    Pitt needs to put this game away in the first half. This is an awful VA Tech squad. Even with Pitt’s recent offensive struggles, they should win this game by at least the 15-20 point range.

  3. Arriba Wilver says:

    So VaTech isn’t one of those defensive monsters with a bad record? Whew! ;-)

  4. Pitt struggled the last time against an awful Miami squad, so I would certainly hope that they can get the scoring machine rolling again against VaTech, especially since it hasn’t been doing that much lately.

  5. DJ says:

    I see that Maverick Rowan, Pitt hoops recruit, has made 45 straight free throws. Although only a HS sophomore, he’s exactly the type of player Pitt needs on the perimeter — lacking for years now. 6’6″ doesn’t hurt either.

    Precise ball rotation and perfect arc (the latter very underrated) are two traits you see in the great shooters and this kid has both in spades. Obviously a stroke perfected at the heels of his father. Let’s hope his verbal commitment sticks.

  6. Jim S. says:

    I agree that he could be exactly the type of player many of us have been calling for, DJ. I think Jamie can maintain his defense-first philosophy and have a couple of guys like this on the team. You bring a sharp shooter to a defensive minded team, and the sharp shooter learns to play better defense while, hopefully, nailing important 3’s and free throws.

    I think Jamie realizes he needs more offensive ability on this team. He needs sharpshooters and someone who can take his man to the hoop. You can teach guys like that to also play defense and rebound if they are the right kids.

    I recall reading when Rowan first verbal’d that he is pretty old for his class. Isn’t he about 2 years older than his classmates?

  7. DJ says:

    They held him back one year as far as I know.

    Kid is thin but two years from now I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. And who knows, he might be 6’8″ by then. That would be a beautiful player to have on the wing.

  8. Jim S. says:

    For sure. I think this will prove to be a key signing.

    I can’t recall right now the name of the kid they got recently that is a Top 10-20 national recruit. He is a big, tough guard. I remember reading that he is defense-oriented and a high character guy. With a lofty national ranking, I have to believe he has a pretty good all around game.

  9. Sage Kotsenberg has just won the first US gold medal in snowboarding. Let’s hope it will be one of many.

  10. DJ says:

    Also good to see some local kids getting a chance at Pitt (since Blair). Sometimes Pitt has become too infatuated with players outside the area.

    Case in point:

    Devin Wilson (FR): 8.9 (PTS) / .445 (FG%) / .375 (3P%) / .635 (FT%) / 3.5 (REB) / 4.4 (AST) / 1.0 (STL)
    Jas. Robinson (FR): 6.1 (PTS) / .368 (FG%) / .313 (3P%) / .790 (FT%) / 2.1 (REB) / 3.5 (AST) / 1.0 (STL)

    Realize Wilson playing 6 minutes more per game than Robinson did in his first year but the %’s don’t lie.

    I think Wilson is going to be a very solid player in the ACC. Looking forward to watching him play today.

  11. In case you’re all interested, the new NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to raise the starting age for players from 19 to 20.

  12. Also, in case you’re interested, former NBA quarterback now ESPN commentator Mark Brunell says there’s no place for pot in the NFL and that drug testing should be expanded.

  13. Also, Carolina Panthers Coach Ron Rivera wants instant replay to review pass interference calls.

  14. Milo Hamilton says:

    The “slump” continues. There were effort issues in that 1st half. At least there’s an easy fix for that.

  15. Well, I’ve been watching the Pitt/VaTech game with increased frustration, since at the half, Pitt leads by only a point, the lead changed 5 times, Pitt turned the ball over 5 times and Lamar Patterson has been hampered by a thumb injury.

  16. DK: Is the blog actually working?

  17. DK: Whoa. Guess it is. Great. Thanks to our tech guys for taking care of this. My understanding is that it wasn’t our issue, so we had to go out of house. Well done.

  18. Milo Hamilton says:

    Thanks for taking care of a half a world away.

  19. Milo Hamilton says:

    Taking care of us, that is. The blog’s fixed but my fingers aren’t. :)

  20. Wild Bill says:

    Just saw the halftime Pitt score. Does the Pete have lids on its baskets?

  21. Milo Hamilton says:

    U-G-L-Y. They ain’t got no alibi.

  22. Milo Hamilton says:

    Complete lack of effort. Unacceptable.

  23. scapper says:

    Yeah, because pot is so dangerous to those players’ health. So snuff out your joints and go take a handful of pain pills and a 12-pack so that you can go back out and shorten your life span by hurling your head and body into other sculpted behemoths.

    But the occasional high from marijuana? Verboten! Bad!

  24. Jim S. says:

    Me, too. What a bad message it sends to kids when people start thinking pot is harmless. I think that is irresponsible.

    Under prescribed medical supervision is one thing, and I know it has benefits. But, let’s not act as though it doesn’t ruin lives and often lead to abuse when not under a doctor’s supervision.

  25. 21sthebest says:

    I went to see Lincoln Park play a couple of weeks ago. Rowan is unbelievable.

  26. Jim S. says:

    Yes, thanks, DK. Now, please give us an update on your efforts to retrieve Bob Kraft’s SB ring from Vlad Putin.

  27. 21sthebest says:


  28. Jim S. says:

    Good to hear, 21. He has to figure he’ll get immediate minutes on this team, especially since Patterson will be gone.

  29. JD says:

    ++ to you scrapper.

  30. 21sthebest says:

    Well we still have 2 1/2 years to go before Rowan is wearing a Pitt uniform.

  31. Milo Hamilton says:

    7:30 remaining and Patterson has no points. Zero.

  32. 21sthebest says:

    I’m not watching. Are they just blanketing him?

  33. Milo Hamilton says:

    He’s battling through some sort of thumb injury. Trouble is I’ve seen him play like this when he’s 100% healthy. This game is close due to lack of hustle & intensity.

  34. Milo Hamilton says:

    Devin Wilson would like nothing more than to leave town with the upset. Another local player (Montour) that Pitt wouldn’t give a second look to.

  35. Milo Hamilton says:

    Cam Wright has hustled his butt off all afternoon, unlike the some of the other passengers dressed in white.

  36. theplanisworking says:

    As you were saying????

  37. theplanisworking says:

    +++ to you, Jim.

    In my neighborhood growing up, pot was a huge issue, and led to many problems. Amazing how in today’s culture, pot is viewed as harmless.

  38. theplanisworking says:

    No offense at all to JRay3, but I want to see a sunshine and roses report about this game. Setting basketball back 100 years again.

    Also, if Pitt plays like they have the past 3 games against Syracuse, they will lose by 60. That is not a typo. I can only hope they wake up by wednesday.

  39. Sarah says:

    Good lord air ball???

  40. Milo Hamilton says:

    No baskets in the 1st overtime. Either team. None.

  41. JRay3 says:

    Plan – Just getting in from running errands and things with the family, only have watched the last two minutes of second half and the overtime.

    Seems like a pretty disappointing day for the Panthers, especially given they were 20 point favorites this afternoon.

    Not a lot of sunshine and roses here, just looking at the stat line it appears Pitt has been dominated on the boards, and reading this board have not played with a lot of effort.

    Just bummed that this team is dealing with the loss of Johnson and injuries to both Zanna and Patterson which are having an obvious impact to their games.

    At this point just hope they survive and gut out win #20.

  42. theplanisworking says:

    I wasn’t slammin ya, JRay, just don’t see any positives from the Panthers the last 3 games. I am fearful for the Syracuse game.

    I am hoping against hope that they pull this one out.
    Against a simply horrible VT team, they should have already won handily.

  43. JAL says:

    Wonder if that ever happened before

  44. 21sthebest says:


  45. JRay3 says:

    Will add this, Sheldon Jeter, Ryan Luther, Damon Wilson, Maverick Rowan and Mustapha Herron can not get here fast enough.

    There is no doubt this team has been exposed offensively.

  46. Milo Hamilton says:

    They’ll still pass it around the perimeter for 35 seconds. :)

  47. DJ says:

    Newkirk may develop, but shooting 10% on free throws will get him a seat on the bench.

  48. JRay3 says:

    It really is odd, it looked like Pitt was willing to run and open things up a bit in games versus NC St, Maryland, Clemson, Georgia Tech and of late they look like a scared, confused, non confident bunch on offense.

  49. Milo Hamilton says:

    Jamie Luckey is easily the worst official in the country (I’m contractually obligated).

  50. Milo Hamilton says:

    This thing gets under 10 seconds, Pitt has to foul.

  51. theplanisworking says:


    If Jamie puts the shackles on a talent like Jeter next year, there is no hope. Luther, I dont know how his game translates to the college level. Rowan will be a breath of fresh air. maybe the kid from Belgium will play center next year?

  52. Milo Hamilton says:

    Well that was epic. In the way a root canal is epic.

  53. theplanisworking says:

    My God, it’s a win.

    Wonder what Mr. Groat thinks as he announces this wreck?

    Now, on to Syracuse wednesday.
    I hope Reverend Lucky prays extra for Pitt.

  54. theplanisworking says:

    Last week you volunteered to play 1B for the Bucs.
    Are you willing to suit up for the Panthers too?

  55. JRay3 says:

    Well not even going to attempt to put a positive spin on this one, not when you are at home, favored by 20 against the team in dead last in the conference at 1-9.

    What little I saw, JRob had the huge four point play that gave his team a chance to win and Wright was great at the FT line and even Newkirk at the end hit a couple big ones.

    At the end of the day I’m happy Pitt is 20-4 and 8-3 in ACC play, but extremely worried as Plan mentioned with Syracuse up next and at North Carolina in the week ahead, two teams that can carve the Panthers up if they do not dramatically improve over what we have witnessed the past couple of weeks.

    Off to take my kids to see two bubble teams play in a Pac 12 contest this afternoon – ASU and Oregon and with no true rooting interest at least my frustration level will be nil.

  56. theplanisworking says:


  57. JRay3 says:

    Oh and for its worth, last night at the Daddy/Daughter dance at my little one’s school I ran into Jim the agent for Bryan Morris and new Bucs catcher Chris Stewart who he said Clint Hurdle really wanted and says metrics show is a top ten defensive catcher and has put on 10-15 pounds as he was ill prepared for a starters role he was thrust into in New York last season. Said he gets an idea the Bucs want to monitor Martin’s playing time a bit more this season.

    He was telling me he was in Nashville hanging out with Bryan Morris and his wife recently, gave me the low down on the Stewart acquisition and stated Huntington told him this will not be a popular move as it meant non-tendering the Fort. He mentioned Morris is looking very sharp in his bullpens and mentally is really where he needs to be and sees this as a big year to prove he can be a back end bullpen guy.

    We got to talking about how I was holding out hope that AJ Burnett returns, because if not I have concerns with the Bucs rotation and keeping up with the likes of the Cardinals. Unfortunately he told me that Bryan and a few of a guys do not believe he is coming back. You never know I guess.

  58. theplanisworking says:

    More ++++++++++

  59. Pitt just barely avoided losing to the worst team in the ACC, one which to which Pitt hadn’t lost since 1967. And now, hopefully, the Panthers can beat Syracuse on Wednesday, and at least play better than they did today.

  60. Thanks for that, J-Ray.

  61. Arriba Wilver says:

    To go against the grain a little (since JRay isn’t), I just finished the Pitt game, and do have some positives. Cam Wright and James Robinson really stepped up. Who knew they could hit threes? And Wright had a career game IMO. Maybe because he knew Patterson wasnt able. Contrary to Milo, I don’t see Patterson as a lack of effort. He COULDN’T shoot. He missed 2 early tries at 3’s where he didnt just miss them, he didnt hit the rim! And you could see time after time after that he would be in position, but wouldn’t take the shot.

    Of course, they also don’t seem like they have more than enough to be a top 20-25 team, and won’t go far in the NCAA’s, but lack of effort? Zanna hasn’t been much of a factor since he injured his ankle, and I already talked about Patterson. This wasn’t setting basketball back. That’s getting old. The young guys didn’t step up enough, but the future still looks good.

  62. scapper says:

    Um…not sure if you’ll see this, but my post was in full support of legalized marijuana use, as it’s much better for NFL players than is all the pills and alcohol they ingest.

    Guess that’s why I’m a poster and not a professional writer!

  63. Jim S. says:

    Fort would be a better hitter than Stewart. Fort’s forte (pardon the pun) is his bat.

    But, Stewart’s forte is defense. Specifically, he was either #1 or #2 in all of MLB last season in pitch framing (can’t recall which, but I saw a chart on it). Yeah, they actually keep track of that. Stewart turned something like 17 or 18% of would be balls intro strikes. Martin was also very high in that stat, though quite a few notches below Stewart. I’m sure they feel that skill is key to helping their pitchers avoid walks.

    Since the Pirates, in my estimation, view defense as 80% or more of a catcher’s duties, and they probably view the catcher as the most important defender on the field, it should come as no surprise that they have scooped up Stewart and Martin in the last 2 years to fill needs at the MLB level.

    I believe they also feel Tony Sanchez can be a very good receiver in terms of calling games and pitch framing, although we know his arm is erratic. I believe he is going back to AAA this season to intensely prepare for the defensive aspects of MLB catching. Sanchez should also be at least an average MLB hitter as a catcher, which, if true, would be a nice bonus.

    Also, this explains why Reese McGuire was chosen so highly in last year’s draft. He is thought to be one of the best defensive catching prospects to be drafted in over a decade in MLB. They have other highly regarded catching prospects working their way up the system as well – namely Wyatt Mathiesen and Jin de Jhang (pardon my spelling).

    I know a lot of us find it frustrating that the Pirates don’t seem to be doing a good job of preparing for the future at 3b, SS and 1b. I know I do. But, right or wrong, they do have a plan. They must honestly feel they can have better luck finding guys at those positions in the future than they can finding good defensive catchers. The Yankees won’t always be there to feed us catchers, I suppose. So, they are leaving nothing to chance and ensuring the pipeline is filled with backstops.

    I’m not saying their strategy is necessarily a good one. I’m just saying they are following a plan. Their ability to stay competitive or not in the next few years will show whether they have been going about building the organization in an intelligent way, I think.

    It seems pretty obvious they are erring on having too many pitchers and catchers, rather than too few, and are willing to take their chances at finding players at other positions with fewer draft picks.

  64. Jim S. says:

    Pitt is playing right now like a team that would lose in the first round of the NIT. I know they are 8-3 in the league, and only have 4 losses on the season. But, they are not playing up to their record now. Zanna is hobbling, and Patterson may be injured now. Durand is already out for the season. They are offensive options #1, 2 and 3.

  65. Jim S. says:

    I know, and he’ll still get immediate minutes by the looks of things.

  66. Jim S. says:

    I appreciate your point of view, but I don’t think it has to be an either/or, Scapper.

    No one is advocating players drinking 12 packs of beer, and no one is advocating they get addicted to pain pills. There has to be a reasonable solution.

    I’ll bet the large majority of players in the league are not resorting to pot to endure the physical aspects of the game. Frankly, that sounded like an excuse some guys are using to get high to me.

  67. Allow me to congratulate Sage Kotsenburg, the first American to win the first US gold medal in the Olympics since 1952.

  68. Jim S. says:

    FWIW, I still like Robinson a lot, Arriba. And, I saw the replay of that 3 plus 1. I don’t know what the defender was thinking. I think Robinson has a bit of a flare for key shots at crunch time. He’s done it a few times the last 2 years. But, Robinson’s skill set, to me, only works if there is at least one player with the ability to drive to the hoop and one 3-pt sharpshooter on the floor with him. You can’t go far in March if James Robinson is your bail out option when things break down.

    I’m glad that it appears Jamie is beginning to recruit good offensive players. But he must allow them to do what they do best. I am confident he can get them to buy into his defensive philosophies if he allows them to move into the modern era of offensive basketball.

  69. Jim S. says:

    Thanks, Lucky.

  70. 21sthebest says:

    Amen Arriba.

  71. theplanisworking says:

    The past 3 games I have stated Pitt has set basketball back. Others now say that is “old”, and not true. Lets look at the facts, shall we?

    Against Virginia, Pitt scored a whopping 45 points. Shot 31.9% from the floor.

    Against Miami, Pitt scored a whopping 59 points, requiring an overtime session to do so. Shot 33.3% from the floor.

    Today, against Virginia Tech, Pitt scored a whopping 62 points, requiring 2 overtime sessions to do so. Shot 37.5% from the field.

    Compare those numbers against their season averages…………. scoring 74 points a game, and shooting 47.2% from the field. Look, I understand Johnson’s injury has hurt the team. But Pitt looks scared out there. Teams are focusing on Patterson, and there doesn’t seem to be any answer. With their lackluster shooting, Pitt has regressed immensely, and the head coach should be able to draw up something else. What do we get? Passing the ball around, looking lost for 30 seconds each possession, then heaving up a prayer. Teams did that 75-100 years ago.

    And who has said that the future doesn’t look bright? Many posters on here, myself included are effusive in their praise of some of the recruits. Rohrssen has been a blessing returning to this team for his recruiting prowess. How is that saying the future isn’t bright? Unreal.

    As for the immediate future, such as the upcoming 2 games, Pitt needs to take good shots, take their opportunities as they develop, and quit missing layups. If they do that, then there is hope for the rest of the season. If they continue playing like they have the past 4 games, they will continue to fail. Pitt cannot struggle against the bottom-feeder teams, and hope to go anywhere in the tournament.

  72. Arriba Wilver says:

    Since I’m the “others,” let me respond. When I said the future looked bright, I was referring to the guys on the team now that will be here next year and beyond. And to being in the ACC. You guys apparently know more about the recruits than me, so I’m not even commenting on them.

    And if you look back at all that I said instead of just the one part, I get that especially with Johnson out, Zanna and Patterson injured, this team won’t go far in the tournament and may be lucky to end up in the top 25. But, yeah, this 75-100 year stuff is getting old when you take everything into consideration. Unreal indeed.

  73. Arriba Wilver says:

    I thought the announcers really missed an opportunity for “color” with Wilson. They didn’t mention he was from around here until there were 3 minutes left in regulation. And he’s a freshman.

  74. theplanisworking says:

    My, you really don’t like facts, do you?

    I showed the past 3 games stats. I showed how the team is passing the ball around for 30 seconds a possession, then heaving up shots. Those numbers, and that type of offense is what occurred 75-100 years ago. It is an ugly, unfocused type of basketball.

    But I have a funny feeling that if one of your group said that, you wouldn’t have a problem with it at all. Carry on.

  75. Arriba Wilver says:

    My group? Who’s that? Seriously, who is that?

    Sorry, comparing the “stats” of the last 3 games with, in no particular order, 2 teams that are defensive juggernaughts, Zanna’s being injured early in the UVA game, Patterson and Zanna less than 100% is far from “proof.” And, apparently, the zone they were playing against today is set to force perimeter shots. Hey, I’m not saying there aren’t problems. I just think your 75-100 year meme oversimplifies things.

    But getting defensive about a disagreement is par for the course.

  76. theplanisworking says:

    Defensive juggernauts? Are you serious? Miami and Virginia tech are at the bottom of the league, with a combined 3 league wins combined.

    And, I can’t imagine why I am defensive.
    After all, you are the person who came after me, telling me what to do, telling me to stick whatever in my pipe and smoke it…….. because I dared disagree with you, and today my opinions, being backed up, are getting old. Nope, I really can’t figure out why I would ever get the least bit defensive when someone comes after me like that. You know, there is a difference between a disagreement, and going after someone.

    If you don’t like my posts, skip over them.
    But that isn’t your style. Carry on.

  77. Arriba Wilver says:

    I was referring to UVA and Miami (“2 teams”). This is a little dated, but still tends to show what I’m talking about.

    “Clemson (1), Virginia (4), Syracuse (8) and Miami (9) are in the top 10 in fewest points allowed.”

    You know, facts. If you’re interested, here’s the article (from Jan. 24)

    Still waiting to hear who is in my “group.” I’d like to plan a get together.

  78. theplanisworking says:

    I am glad you posted that link.

    Let’s give you that Miami, and Virginia are good defensive teams. Funny, I didn’t see Virginia Tech on that list, and Pitt struggled mightily against them. As for their zone forcing Pitt to pass around the outside, that’s a cop-out. Anyone knows the easiest ways to beat a zone defense are 1) make your outside shots, or 2) drive to the hoop, and then pass out to an open man. Dixon and most of his assistants get paid to show his kids how to do it.

    Also, Clemson was ranked #1 in D, but Pitt put up 76 points on them. You know, facts. And, I understand that Patterson and Zanna have minor injuries, but they aren’t serious enough to keep them out of the lineup.

    Why do you want to know who is in your group? You already know. And, at your outing, are you going to attack each other, and tell each other to put something in everyone’s pipe and smoke it? I would pay to see that.

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