Dec. 22, 2009
PITSBURGH (AP)—Gilbert Brown made Pitt a better team from the first minute he returned to the floor. Now the Panthers, finally at full strength for the first time this season, will find out how good they are.
Ashton Gibbs scored 15 points and Pittsburgh jumped out to a 17-point lead in the first 8 1/2 minutes before easing to a 74-49 victory over Ohio on Tuesday night, the Panthers' final game before starting Big East play.
Pittsburgh (10-2) led 4-3 with 90 seconds gone before going on a 16-0 run over the next seven minutes, stretching its lead to 20-3. Ohio (7-4) had won three in a row, only to miss 14 of its first 15 shots.
The Bobcats tried mounting a comeback, outscoring Pitt 19-10 to get to within 30-22, but the Panthers scored eight of the final 10 points to close the half with a 38-24 lead. The Panthers held leads in the 20-point range throughout the second half.
Brown, Pitt's most experienced player but academically ineligible the first semester, played for the first time this season and made all four of his shots while scoring 11 points in 18 minutes.
The 6-foot-6 Brown, a junior who started two seasons ago, couldn't practice with Pitt until semester finals ended late last week.
"It's a big adjustment playing your first game after only a couple of practices, but the understanding I have of the offense helped," Brown said. "I put in a lot of hard work and effort, but I still have to get into game shape."
Brown was the top player off the bench as the Panthers went 31-5 last season, averaging 5.4 points and 3.1 rebounds. Wearing jersey No. 5 for the first time in his career, Brown also is at a different position, power forward rather than small forward.
"We're expecting big things from him," Gibbs said.
With Brown and guard Jermaine Dixon back—Dixon missed eight games while recovering from a twice-broken right foot—Pitt has its full team together. Dixon scored 14 points and held Ohio's top scorer, D.J. Cooper to five points on 1 of 14 shooting.
"We've got our two most experienced players back," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "It makes us a better team. And they make the other guys better."
Pitt shot 55.8 percent (29 of 52) while winning its 46th consecutive non-conference home game and extending its Petersen Events Center winning streak to 29 games. After shooting 7 percent over the first 7 1/2 minutes, Ohio finished 17 of 71 from the floor for 23.9 percent and was outrebounded 48-38 as Dante Taylor and Brad Wanamaker had 10 rebounds each.
It was the second time this month Pitt has held an opponent below 24 percent shooting; New Hampshire shot 23.5 percent while losing 47-32 on Dec. 4, when the Panthers led 15-7 at the half.
"We were too soft, and that's disappointing,” Ohio coach John Groce said. "We've got to get better and we've got to get tougher. Their toughness and our lack of it created the disparity in the score. Their physicality, size and strength wore on us for 40 minutes."
Armon Bassett scored 12 and Steven Coleman had 10 for Ohio, which was coming off victories against Delaware, Illinois State and Eastern Kentucky only to shoot 19.4 percent in the first half (7 of 36) and 23.8 percent from 3-point range (5 of 21).
Nasir Robinson made all five shots and added 10 points and seven rebounds for Pitt, which opens conference play Monday at home against DePaul.
"The more we play and practice, we're going to be fine," Gibbs said. "Coach Dixon is a tough coach and he demands tough players. We're anxious to play our first Big East game."
This is the ninth consecutive season, including each of the last seven under Jamie Dixon that Pitt has won 10 or more non-conference games.
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