Men’s Basketball: Panthers hold off second-half surge for 68-55 win

By Adam Littman

With the departure of DeJuan Blair and Sam Young to the NBA, the Pitt men’s basketball team… With the departure of DeJuan Blair and Sam Young to the NBA, the Pitt men’s basketball team was in need leadership and it looks like it will get it from the backcourt.

In a 68-53 win against Witchita State tonight, the duo of redshirt freshman point guard Travon Woodall and sophomore shooting guard Ashton Gibbs combined for 37 points on 11-of-20 shooting, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range.

With the win, the Panthers (4-0) face their toughest task of the young season as they’ll face No. 3 Texas tomorrow night at 10 p.m. in the championship game of the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBS Classic.

Although Pitt led 32-21 at the half, the Shockers (2-1) rallied in the second, cutting the lead to as little as four, and wouldn’t let the Panthers run away with the game.

Woodall’s 19 points are not only a career high, but more than the 17 points he scored in the 10 games he played in last year. The point guard did a little of everything tonight, leading Pitt in assists (five) and steals (four), as well as tying with center Gary McGhee for a team-best six rebounds. McGhee was the third Panther in double figures with 10 points.

As the Panthers tried to pull away, Woodall was at the center of every run. After Witchita State cut the lead to single digits, Woodall bounced a pass through traffic in the paint to McGhee, who turned around and threw down a two-handed dunk. On the ensuing missed Shocker shot, Woodall charged down court and tossed an underhand pass to Gibbs in transition for an easy lay-in to give the Panthers a 51-40 lead with a little more than nine minutes to go.

After Witchita once again rallied to bring the deficit below 10, Woodall drove to the hoop and gave Pitt a 53-42 lead with 7:15 to go on a right-handed lay-up high off the glass.

Gibbs’, Pitt’s leading scorer coming into the game, scored 18 to go with his four assists and two rebounds. Off the bench, senior Chase Adams scored seven points and had three steals. Nasir Robinson tallied nine points as well.

While the Panthers won, they did play a sloppy game. Pitt had just 11 assists on 21 baskets, and also turned the ball over 16 times, five by Woodall. Witchita also out-rebounded Pitt 26-24.