A rare occurrence happened late in Pitt’s victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
So rare that if you blinked you would have missed it.
That was the fact that Panthers’ point guard James Robinson committed a turnover.
For most guards in the country that would be no big deal, but Robinson, and the Panthers entire team for that fact, has been so good with the basketball this season that it is eye popping on those few instances where he makes the wrong play.
A big reason that the Panthers defeated Georgia Tech was the fact that they only turned the ball over four times as a team. As impressive as that was, Robinson still sees room for improvement.
“We shoot to have under 10 turnovers per game,” Robinson said. “I had a bad turnover late in the game when they double teamed me at half court. But we’re still trying to cut down on even more turnovers. That’s something that coach is preaching: make the right play. I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that, but we can definitely continue to get better.”
What Robinson has done in terms of taking care of the basketball during his collegiate career has been nothing short of remarkable, but what he has done this season has been very special.
Robinson owns a career 3.54:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is tops in NCAA history (minimum 400 assists). He has recorded more assists than turnovers in 110 of 117 career games.
This season Robinson has been turnover-free in seven games and leads the NCAA with a 6.25:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He has turned the ball over one or fewer times in 11 of 14 games this season.
When your point guard is out there taking care of the ball and always making the right play, when you have the talent that Pitt does offensively, you should be in position to win more nights than not.
“Just four turnovers we had in 40 minutes with 89 points scored,” Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said following the Georgia Tech win. “James is doing a great job with the ball, but we have a bunch of guys making the right play.”
It’s not just what Robinson has done in terms of being a facilitator for the Panthers, but what has made his season very good to date is that he is finally looking for his shot more often, which makes him even more dangerous to the opposition.
There was a stretch in Wednesday’s game where the Yellow Jackets clawed back to make it a one possession game, before Robinson took over and scored the games next seven points to give Pitt some breathing room. Dixon has always wanted Robinson to be more aggressive looking for his shot and this season that message appears to be getting through.
After an 18-point, eight-assist effort against Georgia Tech, Robinson is averaging 10.8 points per game on the season to go with 5.3 assists per contest. The impressive part of that is that Robinson is shooting 44.2 percent from the floor and 37 percent from behind the arc, easily career highs. His free-throw shooting is also outstanding as there are very few players in the nation right now that I would rather have on the line late in a close game other than Robinson.
He’s also doing all of this while playing less minutes, averaging a career-low 27.9 per game. That speaks to the supporting cast around Robinson and he has taken advantage of the opportunities.
“He’s been good for us, and now he’s great for us,” Dixon said. “He’s atop the ACC in terms of taking care of the ball. He’s shooting the ball better, and that opens up a lot of things for every team. And for us especially because we have guys at other positions who can make plays, make baskets and make the right pass. He’s playing well, playing a little stronger, playing like a senior and he’s healthy. He’s playing really great basketball.”
Yet as good as Robinson has been, you will never hear his name mentioned among the nation’s better point guards.
However every coach that comes into the Petersen Events Center leaves with a ton of respect for Robinson.
“He’s one of the most underrated players in the country,” Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory said. “He just knows how to play. He’s been around and he always makes the right play every time. Shooting from three, an 8:1 assist to turnover ratio. He gets 18 [points] and eight [assists], 7-of-8 from the line, and four rebounds. How many point guards in the country are going to have those [stat] lines? He’s one of those guys that are really underappreciated aside from the coaches. He dominated the game, especially in the first half, without ever dominating the ball. He’s just really good.”
That says it all about the way Robinson has played this season.
If he can keep it up, this Pitt team is going to be a very tough one to beat nearly every single night.
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports