Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Physical Pitt team presents NCAA challenge to Gators

ORLANDO — Jamie Dixon knows what this looks like.

His No. 9 seed Pittsburgh team plays No. 1 Florida today in the third round of the NCAA Tournament South Region in the underdog role.

But the Pittsburgh team that lost four of six in late February has won six of its past eight. And Dixon believes his Panthers are better than most observers think.

"We feel like we're getting better at what we want to be," Dixon said Friday. "It's been a long time coming, but it's with some young guys — six new guys, four returning guys. You had to understand that it was going to take some time to get there. We're getting there. I don't think we're there right yet, but hopefully it's (today)."

Florida is keenly aware of the challenge ahead with Pitt. The Panthers are extremely physical and led the ACC in rebounding margin at plus-6.3.

"I definitely think it's going to be a physical game," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "They've gotten a lot of productivity out of their frontcourt. It's interesting because both teams trap the low post. They do a really good job trapping the low post. We try to do the same thing. So how effective each team's frontcourt is scoring is going to be interesting because of the way both teams play post defense in the frontcourt."

Guards Michael Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin both struggled for the Gators in Thursday's opening win over Albany, which could make the matchup between 6-foot-9 centers Patric Young and Pitt's Talib Zanna even more pivotal.

"I'm just going to go out there and just play my game," said Zanna, who averages 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds. "I know he's a physical guy, he plays dirty, so that's how we play. It's going to be a good battle down there. I don't mean like a dirty player, I just mean he's physical, get after it, and he's a hustle player."

Young, who had a double double against Albany with 10 points and 10 rebounds, said he welcomes the challenge.

"Because we're both very similar players, it's going to be a battle," he said. "We're going to go out there and just try and wear their frontcourt out because they have a lot of depth, a lot of good talented guys, especially him."

Pitt enters with a plus-1.71 turnover margin and led the ACC in assists (15.62). The Gators said they'll try to force turnovers if possible, but more important they want to wear Pitt down with their press.

"I think like us, they do a good job of priding themselves on defense, and they really work hard on that end," Wilbekin said. "There will be a lot of defense played."

Albany coach Will Brown has played against both the Gators and Panthers. In his opinion, this one is too close to call.

"I think that game, if Pitt handles Florida's pressure and it becomes a halfcourt game, that could be the most physical game you'll see in the NCAA Tournament this year," Brown said. "I think whoever can score the ball easiest in that game is going to win. And I think Florida's pressure allows them to get some cheap turnovers, which will translate into some easy baskets. … This is going to be a great game, I think, a lot closer than people think."

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]

 
Comments
Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

TAMPA – Good pitching and hitting go hand and glove, but the Rays did not look like a team that could swing the bats very well until this completed homestand.In their series sweep over the Twins, Tampa Bay scored 8, 10 and 8 runs. In Sunday's 8...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

Rays’ Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG — With every swing, there is a chance Carlos Gomez is going to do something extraordinary with the baseball bat.He may swing so violently that he spins himself into the ground as if he were an oil drill. Or, you could see him sna...
Updated: 1 hour ago
District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

District softball schedules for Tampa Bay

Class 9A-8 (higher seed hosts)Tuesday: No. 3 Alonso at No. 2 Palm Harbor University, 4; No. 4 Sarasota Riverview at No. 1 Newsome, 7Thursday: Final, 4 or 7 (depending on who hosts)Class 8A-4 at Strawberry Crest Tuesday: No. 1 Wharton vs. No. 4 Wiregr...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

Andrei Vasilevskiy and the universal language of playoff hockey

TAMPA — As usual, Andrei Vasilevskiy didn't speak in front of the cameras after the game. He has been like that since he hit the NHL. He still isn't comfortable with his English on TV.But Vasilevskiy spoke loudly and clearly in the first-round ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

How Baker Mayfield can benefit the Bucs

TAMPA — The buzz at the top of this year's NFL draft is a class of talented quarterbacks deep enough to challenge the all-time record of six in the first round, set in 1983 with a group that included future Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Ex-NFL kicker Jay Feely apologizes for ‘joke’ gun photo

Former NFL kicker Jay Feely, who was born in Odessa and starred at Tampa Jesuit, has apologized for a photo he intended as a joke, showing him holding a gun as he poses with his daughter and her prom date."Wishing my beautiful daughter and her date a...
Updated: 6 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos is no longer just part of a bullpen day, he's the No. 4 starter and who goes to the mound at 1:10 p.m. against Phil Hughes to try to help Tampa Bay attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Twins.Catcher Wilson Ramos g...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Lightning has answer for Devils and David Puddy

Lightning has answer for Devils and David Puddy

You knew those who work the scoreboard for the Lightning games at Amalie Arena would have an answer Saturday during Game 5 to the Devils using David Puddy during Game 4 at the Prudential Center.Puddy meets Homer Simpson.Actually, Puddy met Terry the ...
Published: 04/22/18
Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Members of the Rays organization sent their thoughts and prayers to former teammate Danny Farquhar, who was hospitalized Saturday night in Chicago in stable but critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.Farqu...
Published: 04/22/18
Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Sunday vs. Twins1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 760-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $20-$300; available at Tropicana Field box office, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game.Promotion: Mascot socks for kids 14 a...
Published: 04/22/18