RED-HOT PITT SHOOTS PAST MARQUETTE
The Pitt men's basketball team shot a season-best 60% from the field and beat Marquette, 89-81, in a battle of Big East unbeatens this afternoon at the Peterson Events Center.
The Panthers won their 18th consecutive home game on the strength of their offensive prowess. Jamie Dixon's club was 30 of 60 from the field and had 24 assists on those 30 field goals, turning the ball over just 10 times in the game.
"We went 60 percent from the field, only had 10 turnovers, which is below the 12 we want to stay under, and obviously we were right around the number we wanted to be at in a category where we’re one of the best in the country and that is assist-to-turnover ratio. Having an assist-to-turnover ratio at 24-to-10 speaks volumes," said Dixon after the game about his team's offensive efficiency.
Still, Marquette made things interesting. Twice, Pitt stretched it's lead to 16, but each time the Golden Eagles came back quickly.
"Marquette’s good, they kept battling even though we had a good lead," said Dixon. "They never really got too close but they played hard and they are a very good team."
A 22-6 Pitt run over 6:11 in the first half gave the Panthers a 48-32 advantage with 1:15 left in the half. The run was ignited by back-to-back three-pointers by Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker and an old-fashioned three-point play by Gary McGhee. Pitt was eight of 12 on threes in the first half.
“We never ran them off their routes," said Marquette head coach Buzz Willaims. "They play kind of like the Steelers: they run a play after every dead ball and made basket. Coming into today they were averaging six 3-pointers a game and today they made 10, we never ran them off their lines. It’s hard to beat a team who scores 30 percent of their points from long-range."
Marquette regrouped scoring the last five of the half to cut the lead to 11, 48-37 after the first 20 minutes.
In the second half Pitt came out scorching hot, hitting their first four shots to push the lead to 15 and later in the half consecutive baskets by McGhee, Woodall and Gibbs pushed the lead to 69-53 with 10:53 left. Just as it looked like the game was about to get out of hand, Pitt began to self-implode, turning the ball over on five consecutive possessions and Marquette took advantage by cutting the lead to 8 at the 8:11 mark. After a timeout, Pitt regained their footing and scored on their next four possessions.
“They start three seniors and two juniors and all of them have great poise, said Willaims. "Then they bring players off the bench who change their rotation, but don’t change their great production. So as a team they’re really good, they know what it’s all about and they’re extremely well coached.”
Still, the Golden Eagles hung around and basically matched Pitt point for point, but never cutting back into the lead which stayed between eight and 11 points the rest of the game as they could not come up with enough stops. Pitt was 13 of 20 from the floor in the second half and finished 10 of 18 from three-point range.
"In the second half I don’t think we executed as well but our numbers were good, we shot 65 percent," said Dixon. "They ran a little triangle-and-two and maybe I didn’t call as good of sets as I could have but we shot 65 percent.”
Gibbs led the Panthers with 19 points. Brad Wanamaker added 15 points, 5 rebounds and a team-high 6 assists, Gilbert Brown scored 14 and added a team-high 7 rebounds and Gary McGhee was the fourth Panther in double figures, scoring 12, his third-straight game scoring in double figures since BIG EAST play started.
"The last couple games have given me the confidence to keep working hard, and when I am able to get the ball down low then I can go up strong with it and finish," said McGhee. "Over the past few games this has been my main goal and it has really helped me out.”
Darius Johnson-Odom had a game-high 20 points for Marquette with Dwight Buycks scoring 19 and Jimmy Butler 17 for Buzz Williams' club. The Golden Eagles turned the ball over just two times all game, allowing them to stay relatively close, despite Pitt's hot shooting.
The Panthers held the edge in rebounding with a 38-29 mark, but that might not tell the full story. The Panthers grabbed 11 offensively rebounds and Marquette only had 13 on defense, so Pitt nearly got half their own misses. Marquette did manage to grab 16 offensive boards themselves, but Pitt had 27 on the defensive end.
Pitt, now 3-0 in BIG EAST play, will host Georgetown on Wednesday night. The Hoyas fell to 1-3 in the BIG EAST, losing at home to West Virginia in today's 11 AM contest. Georgetown was the last visitor to win in the Peterson Events Center, beating Pitt 74-62 January 20, 2010. The game is set for a 7 PM tip and will be televised by ESPN.
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