Indiana knocks off Pitt in Jimmy V Classic

| Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009

NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden isn't so friendly to Pitt anymore.

The Panthers fell to Indiana, 74-64, on Tuesday night in the 15th annual Jimmy V Classic for a rare setback in the world's most famous arena.

Pitt senior guard Jermaine Dixon returned from a broken foot for his first action of the season, but it didn't matter, as Pitt shot poorly for the second game in a row.

Five days after scoring 15 first-half points against New Hampshire, Pitt (7-2) shot 31.9 percent from the field in the normally friendly confines of the Garden.

"We got what we really deserved," coach Jamie Dixon said. "We didn't play well. Indiana did."

Pitt became only the second BCS-conference school to lose to Indiana since coach Tom Crean took over the scandal-marred program. The Hoosiers were 1-21 against major-conference teams in that 38-game span, beating Iowa last season.

"They needed a signature win for themselves," said Crean, the former Marquette coach who improved to 6-3 against Pitt. "I'm really proud of the way that they played."

Ashton Gibbs scored a career-high 25 points and Brad Wanamaker added 18 to lead the Panthers. Verdell Jones III scored 20 and Christian Watford 18 to pace Indiana (4-4).

Jermaine Dixon didn't score in 13 minutes of action, missing both shots. He had two rebounds, one assist and one block, along with three turnovers and three fouls.

"It felt good," Dixon said, "but I was timid out there because of my foot. ... My game will come around."

Added coach Dixon, "You just got to put him out there. He's obviously not ready. He doesn't look like the same kid. But we knew that going in. We've just got to play through it and let him find a way."

Pitt trailed by as many as 17 points in the second half, before rallying down the stretch. Freshman Dante Taylor's put-back got the Panthers to within 70-64 with 58 seconds to play, but Indiana held on to hand Pitt only its fourth loss in its past 15 games at the Garden.

Once again, Pitt relied on the same players. In Pitt's past two games, Gibbs and Wanamaker have accounted for 85 of Pitt's 111 points. Gibbs, Wanamaker and Taylor — have scored 35 of the Panthers' 39 field goals.

"We have some work to do," Jamie Dixon said. "We understand that. The players understand that."

Indiana, which shot 52 percent in the second half, used a 13-3 run to take command, building its biggest lead, 59-42, with 7:35 to play in the game.

Pitt went through multiple scoring droughts against Indiana's 2-3 zone.

• A 5:39 scoreless span in the first half.

• Another 7:30 span to end the first half with one field goal.

• A 7:21 stretch in the second with one field goal.

"We forced some shots and we missed shots," Gibbs said. "The key thing is our defense. We didn't get stops when we needed to get a stop. Our offense comes from our defense and our rebounding. If we do that, we will be fine."

Combined with its one-and-done effort at last year's Big East Tournament, Pitt has dropped two in a row at the Garden for the first time in nearly four years and only the second time in a decade.

With Indiana leading 35-34, the Hoosiers scored 13 of the next 16 points to take a 48-37 lead on Devan Dumes 3-pointer midway through the second half. Pitt got to 52-42 on Taylor's layup, but Indiana's 7-0 run gave a 59-42 lead.

Pitt trailed 33-29 at halftime after going 1 for 10 from the field with six turnovers in the final 7:30 of the first half.

In its first action since the NCAA-record low-scoring debacle with New Hampshire, Pitt came out quickly. The Panthers led 10-6 on Wanamaker's 3-point play 2:08 into the game. But Indiana held Pitt scoreless for 5:39 during a 10-0 run to take a 16-10 lead with 12:30 to play in the first half.

Gibbs answered by scoring all of Pitt's points during a 12-4 run that put Pitt up 24-22 with 7:30 left in the half. But Pitt managed only one field goal — Taylor's 3-point play — the rest of the half and trailed by four heading into the locker room.

Indiana's leading scorer, Maurice Creek, went 1 for 6 from the field in the first half and scored four points, but Indiana exploited the Panthers inside. Forwards Christian Watford (seven points), Derek Elston (7) and Tom Pritchard (six) helped the Hoosiers score 18 first-half points in the paint.

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