Gibbs heads home

By Jay Huerbin

The Pitt men’s basketball team heads to Newark, N.J. Saturday to take on the Seton Hall Pirates… The Pitt men’s basketball team heads to Newark, N.J. Saturday to take on the Seton Hall Pirates at 8:30 p.m. But for one Panther, the trip marks his first Big East game back in his hometown. ‘We’re going to try to make it a good homecoming,’ said freshman guard Ashton Gibbs. ‘We’re just going to try to win and that will be the highlight of my homecoming.’ Gibbs recorded his best performance of the season in the Panthers’ loss to Providence on Tuesday. He turned in 14 minutes and put up 15 points as Pitt’s late rally came up short. With the loss, Gibbs and the rest of the Panthers (25-3, 12-3 Big East) learned that no team can be taken lightly. ‘I think it’s got us focused,’ said Gibbs about Pitt’s latest performance. ‘A lot of guys weren’t ready. We’re the No. 1 team in the country and teams are out there to get us.’ Despite the struggles against the Friars, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon expects the Panthers to be ready tomorrow. ‘When we’re down by 18 points, it’s a number of different things,’ he said about the struggles in Providence. ‘We’ll get it back together, though. We always do.’ Gibbs said he has roughly 125 tickets for the game, but he doesn’t expect to know everybody in those seats. ‘My mom and my father have a PAL team ‘mdash; a fundraiser ‘mdash; so they’ll be bringing a lot of kids,’ said Gibbs. With the Panthers playing in the heart of the Big East, Dixon is excited to see his players perform in front of their hometown crowds. ‘It’s a good opportunity for us to get back home for a lot of guys,’ said Dixon. ‘We’ll have a lot of people there.’ The Pirates are coming off a 75-60 win over South Florida on Wednesday. The loss snapped their three-game losing streak. Sophomore guard Jeremy Hazell paced the Pirates against the Bulls with 20 points. His 611 points lead the Big East, and his 22.6 points per game ranks second to Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody. Like Pitt’s defeat in Providence, Seton Hall (15-12, 6-9 Big East) will also salute its seniors before tipoff. ‘Coming from New Jersey, I’ve seen [Seton Hall] play their hardest, said Gibbs. ‘Coach [Bobby] Gonzalez is an energized guy, and he’s going to have those guys ready.’ But returning to Pittsburgh with another Big East win is all that matters for the Panthers. Their loss to Providence dropped the team into a tie for third place in the conference. ‘It’s definitely going to be a good homecoming,’ said Gibbs. ‘A win wouldn’t hurt at all.’