Men’s Basketball: Gibbs continues hot shooting as Pitt downs Eastern Kentucky

By Jay Huerbin

Ashton Gibbs did it again.

The sophomore guard led Pitt (3-0) to a 71-60 win over Eastern Kentucky tonight. It was his second consecutive 20-plus point game after he scored 22 points against Binghamton on Tuesday.

“[Eastern Kentucky] is a good team, very versatile,” Gibbs said. “We watched film and knew what to expect, so we came out with the win.”

Unlike his game against Binghamton, Gibbs scored most of his points from the paint. He only attempted five 3-point shots, hitting two, but he was 8-of-14 from the inside the arc.

But Gibbs wasn’t the only Panther who found success against the Colonels, who drop to 1-1 on the season.

Freshman Lamar Patterson scored 10 points off the bench and came down with four rebounds. Patterson, who scored all 10 of his points and played 13 minutes in the first half, saw action early as starter Brad Wanamaker ran into foul trouble.

“It wasn’t that I needed to show [coach Jamie Dixon] what I could do. I just knew that I needed to step up for the team,” Patterson said. “It was early in the game, and I just wanted to bring energy.”

Gibbs played well throughout the game, but it was a Dante Taylor dunk with 4:11 left in the game that secured the victory for the Panthers.

Leading 65-53, the freshman forward came down with an offensive rebound and slammed it down for two points. Taylor finished the game with five points, but he led the team with 12 rebounds.

The shot put the Panthers up by 14, and the Colonels never recovered. They came within eight points with less than a minute left, but back-to-back fouls ended any of Eastern Kentucky’s hopes for last-minute magic.

Taylor and Patterson were two of four Pitt players who came off the bench during the game. Pitt’s bench accounted for 20 points in 64 minutes of play.

“Lamar played really well in the first half, and Dante played good in the game,” Dixon said. “I think this is going to be a team that we play a lot of guys down the stretch. It’s going to be a very balanced team as we get going.”

Behind Taylor’s strength under the basket, the Panthers’ bench came down with 20 of the team’s 43 rebounds. And for the game, Pitt out-rebounded Eastern Kentucky by more than 20.

That was good news for the Panthers, who struggled to rebound in their first two games.

“We got a lot of rebounds from our guards,” Dixon said. “That’s something that we were really trying to improve on and was a big step and a good thing to see.”

The players agreed on the defensive improvement.

“We felt, as a team, that we were playing good defense,” forward Nasir Robinson said. “Coach preached about it all week, so we just went out there and put our hand up and made them take tough shots.”

Robinson finished the game with 15 points and came down with three rebounds.

The defense also dominated in blocking the Colonels’ shooters, recording 12 on the night.

With the win, the Panthers wrapped up a 2-0 record in regional play of the 2009 O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic. They will take on Wichita State on Monday in semifinals of the early season tournament. Tip-off for the game is set for 7:30 p.m.

It will be the first road game of the season for the Panthers.

“It’s a big challenge,” Robinson said, about playing on the road. “We’re just going to go out there and just pretend that we’re at home — block everything out, block the crowd out, the fans, the atmosphere — and just pretend like we’re still at the Pete.”

Notes: Jamie Dixon said that senior Jermaine Dixon will have an X-ray tomorrow of his ankle. The injury has kept him from playing in Pitt’s first three games.