Men’s basketball: Four score in double-digits as Pitt takes down Youngstown State

By Jay Huerbin

With roughly 12 and a half minutes left in Pitt’s Saturday afternoon matchup against… With roughly 12 and a half minutes left in Pitt’s Saturday afternoon matchup against Youngstown State, the two teams were tied at 42.

But that’s when Ashton Gibbs, who struggled all game and failed to score a field goal in the first half, hit a 2-point jumper to break the tie. The Panthers went on to escape with a 72-56 victory over the visiting Penguins.

Pitt held a six-point lead at half, but Youngstown State scored five points in 42 seconds out of the break to cut the Panthers’ lead to one. The teams traded points until the Penguins inched closer before tying the game near the midway point of the second half.

That’s when the sophomore guard scored his first field goal of the game, giving Pitt a 44-42 lead the never gave up.

“I was just taking advantage of what the defense was giving me,” Gibbs said about his first field goal of the game. “If I get an open shot, I’m going to do my best to knock it down.”

Gibbs finished the game with 14 points, but was just 2-for-7 beyond the arc.

“They closed out on me real well and I had a couple turnovers and a couple bad decisions,” Gibbs said about his first half struggles. “They did a great job defensively, so I have to give credit to them.”

The Panthers fell behind early in the game, down by five points just over four minutes into the game, before taking a 34-28 lead into halftime.

Gibbs’ mid-game play may have sealed the win for Pitt, but another Panther played consistent throughout the game.

Junior guard Brad Wanamaker scored 14 points, one shy of his career high, and came down with eight rebounds in 32 minutes of play.

“Brad played his best game of the year,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “It was good to see the rebounding from Brad. I think he should be a very good rebounder for us and he’s improved on that as the season has gone on.”

Following Youngstown State’s five-point run out of half, Wanamaker converted on a nice layup, taking the ball behind a Penguins’ defender, to give Pitt a 36-33 lead. Less than two minutes later, he put up 3-point jumper that extended Pitt’s lead to six.

The Panthers came down with 28 defensive rebounds, led by Nasir Robinson (9) and Gary McGhee (6).

Both Robinson and McGhee finished with a double-doubles, something McGhee attributed to their presence on the court together.

“Me and Nas really do play good with each other,” McGhee said. “We help each other on offense and block out and look for rebounds together on defense.”

Dixon said the defense, especially the rebounding has improved through the course of this season, but isn’t near its peak.

Wanamaker agreed and suggested that tougher defense could lead to smoother wins.

“I don’t think we take enough pride in playing defense, yet,” Wanamaker said. “Once we start doing that, we’ll win games a lot more easily.”

The Panthers will play Duquesne University on Wednesday night. It will be the last City Game to take place in Mellon Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Notes: McGhee set a new career high in points with 12. His previous high was 11 against No. 3 Texas on Tuesday…Four Panthers scored in double-digits (Robinson, McGhee, Gibbs and Wanamaker)…Pitt shot above 90 percent in free throws in the first half and shot 71.9 percent in the game.