Before the game against Cincinnati Saturday night at Fifth Third Arena, Pitt players took the court for warm-ups in their usual fashion. But by the time they headed back to the locker room one of their players had all the motivation he needed.
The Cincinnati student section had two cardboard cutouts they flashed at freshman center Steven Adams. One of them was a large cutout of Adams’ head. The other was a cutout of the head of his girlfriend, Kayla Kiriau, a basketball player at Sheridan Junior College in Wyoming.
Adams did not speak with reporters after the game, but senior guard Tray Woodall said he was motivated by the antics of the student section.
“I wanted to feed the big guy inside because we knew how aggressive he wanted to be today,” Woodall said. “They fired him up a little bit when he saw a picture of his girlfriend in the crowd.”
Adams, the 7-footer from New Zealand, then came out of the locker room 30 minutes later and played one of the best games of his short college career. Adams was 5 for 6 from the field and had 13 points in Pitt’s 62-52 victory against the Bearcats. He scored eight of his points after halftime when the Panthers erased a five-point deficit.
If this is going to be the result when Adams is taunted by opposing crowds, Pitt’s coaches ought to plant these cardboard cutouts in the crowd at every opposing team venue.
Adams continues to look more comfortable in the low post. Cincinnati did not double-team him and he took advantage of the single coverage by muscling his way into the lane for easy shot after easy shot.
It was the first time Adams scored in double figures in Big East play, but he has taken big steps in the past month. He has scored eight points or more in the past six games. He’s also starting to shoot better from the foul line. He was 3 for 4 against Cincinnati after going 4 for 5 against Seton Hall.
Pitt has won seven of its past eight and is creeping closer to the top of the Big East standings.
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