Key to the game: Rhode Island’s lack of transition defense
Not the prettiest game to open the college basketball season but to me, it was clear what won the game for the Pitt: the lack of transition defense by the Rams, especially in the second half.
Doris Burke blamed it on fatigue of the Rams. While this may be a part of it, a lack of awareness by the guards plays a big part in transition defense. When a shot goes up, at least two players on the perimeter need to be floating back to their end of the court to deter easy transition opportunities.
What we saw several times were Rhode Island players standing in place when an outside shot went up, instead of getting back on defense. This led to several easy opportunities for the Panthers, helping them get easy buckets.
Here, Pitt grabs the defensive rebound and you can see 4 Ram defenders inside the paint. With one Ram defender back, this leads to a three on one for Pitt. Delroy James (#21) needs to realize his position on the court and get back on defense.
James is caught flat footed and is easily beat down the court.
Although Pitt did not convert the break, it illustrates the opportunities they had in transition. With Rhode Island shooting 3′s on a regular basis, they need to have balance with the long rebounds that are bound to happen.
This shot shows how the perimeter players were drifting toward the basket, hoping for an offensive rebound, instead of getting back for defensive balance.
Watch as Nikola Malesevic drifts toward the basket and gets caught in no mans land after Pitt secures the rebound. He needs to be moving toward his own basket (green arrow) instead of fighting for an offensive rebound (red arrow) which he has little hope of corralling.
Considering Pitt was strong on the glass (Rhode Island only got 27% of offensive rebounds), they should have been focusing more on transition defense. They did not and Pitt took advantage of it, getting out and running numerous times.
I think the exploitation of the poor transition defense by Pitt was the key to this game and the only thing that prevented it from being a double digit win was Pitt missing the easy layups in transition.
Rhode Island was successful playing their style and almost knocked off #4 Pitt. To be a legitimate contender in the A-10, they need to shore up their transition defense.