Pitt coach Jamie Dixon did not like it at all last season when the Panthers devolved into a mediocre defensive outfit. He proved he means business on that front when he started a couple of freshmen over more experienced players Friday night in Pitt’s first exhibition game against IUP.
Dixon started James Robinson at point guard and Steven Adams at center. With Robinson at the point, Tray Woodall moved off the ball to shooting guard.
The odd man out was junior transfer Trey Zeigler, a two-year starter at Central Michigan who figured to be the starter opposite Woodall.
“We’re trying to get the best defenders out there,” Dixon said after the game. “We think Tray and James are probably the best two.”
Robinson, at 6 feet 3, is a big guard and he proved his defensive worth against IUP. Dixon was not shy about singing his praises. He also wasn’t shy about challenging Zeigler and his other wings to improve on the defensive front.
“This is not final,” Dixon said. “We need a couple of these wings to become the defenders we think they can be and for them to get a little better understanding of what we’re doing offensively.”
Joining Robinson and Woodall in the starting lineup was Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna and Steven Adams. Woodall led the Panthers with 16 points. J.J. Moore scored all 14 of his points in the second half off the bench.
It will be interesting to see what Dixon does next Friday in the final exhibition game against Hawaii-Hilo. His message has been sent. We’ll see if Zeigler and the others get the message.
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