Pitt finds a way without Gibbs
Even in defeat, Bob Huggins could appreciate the Pitt players' approach to the game.
The coach with 685 victories in his 29th year said that in an age when college basketball is stocked with NBA-hopefuls trying for the next highlight-reel play, the Panthers do it the right way.
"It's kind of refreshing, actually," he said. "(Monday night), it wasn't."
No. 4 Pitt flexed its team-first attitude in the 71-66 victory at No. 25 West Virginia despite the absence of leading scorer Ashton Gibbs (knee).
Four players scored in double figures — the most 15 points — and Pitt limited the Mountaineers to eight offensive rebounds, matching its season low. The Panthers made only one 3-pointer on six attempts, both season-lows, but scored 42 points in the paint.
"They have good players and a good coach, that's what it is," Huggins said. "They share the ball. It's admirable in today's times. You've got all those guys who think they are going to go play in the league. They've got guys who just play. They just play to win. They don't force shots. They don't do things they can't do. They just do what they can do."
Pitt will have to do more without Gibbs, a first-team all-Big East preseason pick averaging 16.3 points per game. The junior guard, who has a strained MCL in his left knee, is expected to miss 10 to 14 days. Sophomore Travon Woodall will make his second consecutive start when the first-place Panthers (22-2, 10-1) face another tough road game at No. 12 Villanova (19-4, 7-3) on Saturday night.
Woodall, who made 11 starts last season in Gilbert Brown's absence, played a career-high 36 minutes, going 4 for 11 from the field for 12 points with three assists and one turnover.
Nasir Robinson (15 points, eight rebounds) played a season-high 33 minutes and Brad Wanamaker (11 points, nine rebounds) logged 35, one shy of his season high.
Most importantly, Woodall stayed out of foul trouble, something that has plagued him all season.
"I was a little bit worried if we had to go beyond him," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "But I felt fine with him. He's played a lot of minutes before. He was ready for that. There wasn't a lot of concern."
Pitt got widespread contributions. Sophomore Dante Taylor and freshmen Lamar Patterson, Talib Zanna and J.J. Moore combined for 44 minutes of play. As a group, the quartet had 11 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot.
"This is a prime example of those guys stepping in," Wanamaker said, "and showing coach (Dixon) what they could do."
Pitt's offense had a different look without Gibbs. There was more attacking drives to the basket with fewer set plays designed for an open 3-point attempt. When Woodall rested — for four minutes — Wanamaker ably ran the point, something he has done in practice and games.
Gibbs, who played the second half Saturday against Cincinnati with the injury and matched his career-high with 25 points, is eager to get back. He had made 57 consecutive starts and never missed a game due to injury at Pitt. He is riding a stationary bike and doing light shooting, waiting for the go-ahead from Pitt trainer Tony Salesi to return to action.
"He doesn't feel pain," Dixon said of Gibbs. "He still doesn't think he's hurt. I thought he was going to check himself in (against West Virginia)."Additional Information:
The nine-deep Pitt roster picked up the slack for injured Ashton Gibbs against West Virginia. Travon Woodall and Nasir Robinson logged season-highs in minutes:
• Brad Wanamaker: 35 minutes against WVU; season high is 36 (vs. Tenn., ND)
• Travon Woodall: 36* minutes against WVU; previous season high was 29 (vs. Maryland)
• Nasir Robinson 33 minutes against WVU; previous season high was 32 (vs. Connecticut)
* • Career high