Ashton Gibbs led the Panthers with 20 points against Eastern Kentucky. (File Photo)
Nov. 19, 2009
PITTSBURGH (AP)--This is Jamie Dixon's most inexperienced team in his seven seasons as Pittsburgh's coach. That doesn't mean the Panthers aren't fast learners.
Ashton Gibbs scored 20 points and Pittsburgh began pulling away by holding Eastern Kentucky scoreless for more than eight minutes during a 71-60 victory on Thursday night, the Panthers' 24th win in a row at home.
Gibbs, who scored 22 against Binghamton on Tuesday, had seven points during a 13-0 run that began with 6:57 remaining in the first half and ended with Pitt leading 41-24. The surge came with a smaller lineup on the court designed to force the Colonels into taking difficult shots.
The Panthers (3-0) rarely allowed the Colonels (1-1) more than one shot on a possession, doubling them in rebounds most of the game before finishing with a 47-25 advantage. Dante Taylor, a freshman, had 12 rebounds and four of Pitt's school-record tying 12 blocked shots.
Justin Stommes scored 24 for Eastern Kentucky, which played its first game against a major college opponent this season.
The Panthers, who averaged a nation's-best 9.3 rebounds per game more than their opponents last season, were held even on the boards by Wofford during a 63-60 victory. They outrebounded Binghamton, a team composed mostly of freshmen and walk-ons, by only six.
Not surprisingly, Dixon promised rebounding would be emphasized during his team's only off-day practice. The results were evident, even with a team that played four freshmen and a sophomore for an average of 26 minutes each.
"We really stressed some things and when we focus on one thing, two things in our preparation for a game, this team has really responded," Dixon said. "Passing the ball, we talked about that (before Binghamton) and we get 24 assists on 27 baskets. This game, it was all about rebounds."
With four starters gone and a fifth injured from last season's 31-5 team, Dixon found it difficult to work on every aspect during preseason practice. Hence the hurried-up lessons in spreading the ball around, hitting the boards and being in position to control long rebounds. Guards Brad Wanamaker (8) and Travon Woodall (6) combined for 14 rebounds.
"I thought we definitely rebounded better," said Lamar Patterson, who had 10 points and 4 rebounds in his third college game. "We're getting better with every game."
Nasir Robinson, a sophomore, scored 15 during Pitt's 41st consecutive home-court victory against non-conference opponents, two off the school record. Pitt is 69-1 against non-conference opponents at the Petersen Events Center, which opened in 2002.
The Colonels, whose only previous game this season was a 102-71 rout of Division II W.Va. Wesleyan, kept trying to make a run to get back into the game, cutting it to 59-48 on a pair of 3-pointers by Stommes less than a minute apart. Pitt scored the next five to get the lead back to 16.
"We expected to win--we go into every game expecting to win," Stommes said. "When we got it (the lead) down, I thought we had a good chance."
Eastern Kentucky never led and went 9 of 24 (37.5 percent) from 3-point range, following a 17 of 26 (65.4 percent) effort against W.Va. Wesleyan. Josh Taylor and Spencer Perrin scored 11 each as the Colonels shot 40 percent (24 of 60) to Pitt's 50 percent (26 of 52), with Gibbs making 8 of 14.
"I thought our defense was good," Taylor said. "We've got to shoot it better and play harder."
Pitt also had 12 blocked shots against St. Francis (Pa.) on Dec. 1, 1993.