Pitt got back to the business of taking Big East teams to the woodshed at home with a 25-point beatdown of Seton Hall on Saturday. The handy-dandy game flow chart shows a close game initially with Pitt pulling away for a big win. This was one that Pitt had to have and they responded as such.
Pretty much everything went the Panthers' way and they played about as well as possible. Shooting over 50% from the field, 45% from 3s, and 71% from the line. They outrebounded Seton Hall by nine, had 20 assists, and only turned the ball over nine times.
As I said - pretty perfect game.
Perhaps the biggest plus was the balance of scoring - 23 for Gilbert Brown, 15 for Jermaine Dixon, 13 for Brad Wanamaker, 12 for Gary McGhee, and 11 for Ashton Gibbs. Pitt will be at their best when they can get a bunch of guys into double figures and don't have to rely on 1-2 players. J.J. Richardson, who's been seeing increased minutes lately, had the same output as Dante Taylor (2 points/2 rebounds/1 block) in 2/3 less minutes.
Back to Gibbs - He took the second fewest shots of this season (7) and the 'share the load' mentality seemed to work. Pitt cannot rely on him to go out and score 20 points. He may do that once in a while, but as we've seen recently, Pitt needs other guys to step up if they're going to win games.
And going hand in hand with that is going to be Pitt's ability to get him a breather. Dixon followed the strategy that I laid out after the WVU game of playing Gibbs a bit less and Travon Woodall a bit more to allow Gibbs a breather from PG responsibilities. Gibbs played 31 minutes (his fewest of the Big East season) and Woodall played 19 minutes (his most of the Big East season). Woodall has been playing better of late and has been keeping the turnovers and wild play to a minimum. If Pitt can rely a bit more on Woodall, then Gibbs will be better for it. Woodall has not been getting a ton of assists or points, but in the past six games, has only six turnovers - not bad at all.
Former Pitt recruit Herb Pope had a mild 9/6, shooting 3-13 from the field and fouling out. Pitt also held scoring machine Jeremy Hazell to only two points, keeping him at 11 total in both meetings. Raise your hand if you thought THAT was possible. If your hand is up, please, just, go away. Anyway, Hazell was benched for the start of this game, picking up where he left off with head coach Bobby Gonzalez, who benched him at the end of their loss to Villanova for poor shot selection.
I expected Pitt to get tested a little more and really am surprised that nearly 7,000 people still made it out despite the snowstorm. Even if a lot of them were students, that's still pretty amazing. I was expecting a few thousand to get there and wondered what kind of home-court advantage that would really give Pitt. Not sure how much it helped that Pitt gave free tickets to students - I'm kind of under the mindset that whoever wanted to go already had tickets. But I'm sure it helped at least a little and was a good idea on the part of the university.
Pitt will certainly not play this well all the time, but it's nice to see them get back on track - hopefully this will instill some more confidence after the whooping they took from WVU.
And on a brief side note, I love Curtis Aiken but he was a train wreck tonight. Pitt went up by ten on an Ashton Gibbs 3-pointer with FIFTEEN minutes left in the 2nd half and he called it the final dagger or something, signifying the end of the game. He then followed that gem up by saying that Herb Pope at around the 11:00 mark had only 1 FG in the game (when he in fact had three). He was also completely in the dark on the technical foul rule, unsure of who had possession after the FT. Normally, this is stuff I can overlook. But it all literally happened within like five minutes. Come on, my man.
Next up is Robert Morris on Monday night.