Men’s basketball: Gibbs stays hot, Brown shines in No. 23 Pitt’s win over Cincinatti

By Jay Huerbin

Earning a national ranking (No. 23 Associated Press) for the first time this season didn’t… Earning a national ranking (No. 23 Associated Press) for the first time this season didn’t slow down the Pitt men’s basketball team. After upsetting then-No. 5 Syracuse on Saturday, the Panthers defeated another the Bearcats 74-71 in Cincinnati tonight.

With the win, Pitt improved to 13-2 on the season. But more importantly, the Panthers are now 3-0 in the Big East.

Sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs, who scored 24 points in the win over the Orange, stayed hot early in the game. He needed to as the Panthers fell behind early in the game. Spurred by Lance Stephenson and Yancy Gates, the Bearcats went on a 9-2 run for an 11-4 Cincinnati lead nearly four minutes into the game.

But with the help of his teammates, Gibbs put up 14 points in the first half before finishing the game with 19. His jumper with 5:18 left in the first half gave Pitt a 25-23 lead it would hold onto for much of the game.

Gibbs shot 4-of-6 from the field and nailed the only 3-point shot he attempted. He also extended his school record in consecutive free throws to 40 — missing his 41st attempt with three seconds left and Pitt holding onto a 73-71 lead.

Late in the first half, Pitt switched over to a 2-3 zone — a transition that helped them beat Duquesne and Kent State earlier in the season — and slowed down the Bearcats’ play. The Panthers went on a 7-2 run, capped by a Gary McGhee dunk with five seconds remaining, to end the first half and take a 38-32 lead into the locker room.

The Bearcats (10-4, 2-1) played strong in the second half — tying the game on four separate occasions — but never held a lead. They struggled from beyond the arc, shooting only 25 percent. Stephenson, Gates and Deonta Vaughn led Cincinnati, scoring 48 of their team’s points.

Much of Cincinnati’s struggles came because of a strong second half performance by Gilbert Brown. He scored 15 points in the second half, including a 9-0 individual run during the middle of the half to keep Pitt’s lead. Brown finished the game with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 27 minutes off the bench.

The Panthers are currently in first place in the Big East — they were picked to finish ninth in the conference by league coaches — but play two of their next three games against ranked opponents. They will travel to Connecticut to take on the No. 13 Huskies before returning home for matches against Seton Hall and No. 12 Georgetown.