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November 16, 2011Entering Wednesday night, Pitt had only lost one non-conference game in the 10-year history of the Petersen Events Center.
Make it two, as Long Beach State, of the Big West Conference, beat No. 9 Pitt 86-76.
"We knew how good they were," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said after the game. "I had anticipated us being a much better team at this time, and obviously we're not where I would like us to be."
The Long Beach victory came in virtually every aspect of the game. The 49ers outshot the Panthers 59.3% to 46.6%, outrebounded the Panthers 29-26, turned the ball over less than the Panthers, and outscored the Panthers in paint points, points off turnovers, fast-break points, and bench points.
"They wanted it more than us," senior forward Nasir Robinson said. "They worked harder, they ran harder, they got the loose balls, they executed better than us, they out-smarted us; they just wanted it more. They just wanted it more than us."
Robinson scored 19 points in the loss and fellow senior Ashton Gibbs had a team-high 20, but Long Beach senior guard Casper Ware set a career high with 29 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Junior guard James Ennis also chipped in 19.
According to Dixon, though, the biggest advantage for the 49ers was in transition. Long Beach scored 25 fast-break points and 16 point off turnovers. Throughout the game, Long Beach's athleticism led to an edge on the glass and in getting after loose balls, all of which turned into transaction baskets.
But Dixon is a coach whose teams take pride in playing defense, and on Wednesday night - as well as in Pitt's tight win over Rider on Monday - the Panthers did not excel on that end of the court.
"However you want to look at it, the fact remains that they shot 59%. So we're not getting our assignments. I think we're indecisive in what we're supposed to do defensively, and I think that's slowing us down. That's the bottom line: I think we just don't feel comfortable in what we're doing and where we're supposed to be."
The loss was Pitt's first home defeat at the hands of a non-conference opponent since 2005, when the Panthers lost to Bucknell 69-66 in January. Pitt is off until hosting LaSalle on November 22, and Dixon said the Panthers will be plenty busy leading up to that game.
"We have a lot of work to do," Dixon said. "We knew that, we talked about that, we've been talking about it; we have to get better. We know that and we're going to get working tomorrow. This was disappointing, but we recognized going in that we have to be a better team and especially get better defensively."