Jan. 8, 2011
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PITTSBURGH (AP) - Coach Jamie Dixon's Pitt teams are commonly called hardworking, aggressive, defense-minded and resourceful. They win by making few mistakes and rebounding with a passion.
These No. 5 Panthers are adding another descriptive term to all of the previous: high-scoring.
Ashton Gibbs scored 19 points and Brad Wanamaker led a first-half surge in which Pittsburgh rapidly opened up a 16-point lead, carrying the hot-shooting Panthers past Marquette 89-81 on Saturday.
Wanamaker scored 15 points and Gilbert Brown added 14 points and seven rebounds for Pitt (15-1, 3-0 in Big East), which shot a season-high 60 percent (30 of 50).
The Panthers were tied at 26 before going on a 22-6 run that lasted six minutes and put them ahead 48-32 late in the first half, forcing Marquette to play from behind the rest of the way.
Darius Johnson-Odom scored 20 points, Dwight Buycks had 19 and Jimmy Butler 17 for Marquette (11-5, 2-1). The Golden Eagles had four players in double figures and committed only two turnovers to Pitt's 10, yet still lost their fourth in a row against Pitt in Big East play.
Blame it on Pitt's much-improved offense.
While they have 15 more conference games to play, the Panthers are averaging 81.2 points overall and 83.3 points in the Big East - the most during Dixon's eight seasons as coach.
Pitt has never averaged more than 78.5 points per game under Dixon and only once - that DeJuan Blair and Sam Young team of 2008-09 - has averaged more than 74.4 points.
"It's the balance of this team," Wanamaker said. "We have a lot of guys who can play and anybody can get going in a game. We play very unselfish, and that's why we're scoring points."
Pitt averaged 68.8 points last season, its lowest under Dixon, yet still went 25-9.
"Our numbers went up (last year) in conference play, which never happens," Dixon said. "I think we're good offensively. Are we better than last year's team offensively? I think we can be. I think we're heading in that direction."
With Pitt's offense driven by 3-pointers for the second successive game, Gibbs and Wanamaker started the 22-6 run with 3s. Gary McGhee and Wanamaker then converted three-point plays around a jumper from the wing by Wanamaker, who scored eight points during the surge.
"We stress working (to get open) without the ball," Gibbs said. "We're patient, but we practice it with the shot clock."
Brown's 3-pointer and Dante Taylor's follow-up after three successive Pitt misses finished off the run. McGhee helped out with 12 points and six rebounds.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams is convinced Pitt gets more offense out of set plays than any other major-college team. The Panthers start three seniors and two juniors, so their familiarity with that offense allows them to play with patience and confidence.
"We never did run them off their (offensive) routes," said Williams, whose team was outrebounded 38-29. "They play kind of like the Steelers play. They run a play after every dead ball, they run a play after every basket. We never ran them off their line."
With Pitt shooting so well - 10 of 18 from 3-point range - Marquette couldn't make a determined push to get back into a game in which it trailed by double-digit margins for most of the second half. Pitt won its 18th in a row and 49th in its last 50 at the Petersen Events Center, where it is 143-11.
Pitt, which usually relies on its defense and rebounding to win, followed up its 10 for 19 performance from beyond the arc during an 83-79 victory at Providence on Tuesday. Gibbs was held to 9 points in that game, but rebounded with his seventh game of 19 or more points this season.
"When a team is getting 30 percent of its offense on 3s, it's hard to beat anybody," Williams said.
Previously, Pitt won six times this season while being held to 5 baskets or fewer from 3-point range. Brown was 2 of 3 on 3s after going 5 of 6 against Providence and is 17 of 26 over his last seven games.