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Gibbs proves tireless in directing offense

| Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011

NEW YORK -- Getting Ashton Gibbs a breather will have to wait.

The Pitt senior guard played a season-high 39 minutes and directed the Panthers' offense in a 74-68 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon had hoped to scale back Gibbs' minutes as the Panthers conclude their nonconference schedule, but with junior point guard Tray Woodall sidelined and Oklahoma State unleashing constant pressure, the steady Gibbs was the best option.

"We're in that situation," Dixon said. "We're fighting through some things, but I like how we've responded. Ashton looked comfortable, and it seemed to have worked."

Gibbs had only one turnover while playing 39 minutes for only the second non-overtime game in four years at Pitt. The Panthers had three turnovers in the first half, nine in the second half.

"Ashton Gibbs just controls the basketball game with the ball in his hands," said OSU coach Travis Ford, the former standout point guard at Kentucky. "He's a very impressive player."

Gibbs, who has the two highest-scoring games of his career at the Garden (26 versus St. John's and 27 versus Connecticut), added a team-high 17 points, along with two assists.

He hit a pair of 3-pointers late in the first half as Pitt turned a 29-26 edge into a 42-30 lead at the break.

"Those threes killed us," Ford said. "Backbreakers."

Crazy play

This one was weird.

Late in the first half, Oklahoma State sophomore guard Markel Brown went over the scorer's table going after a loose ball and, when he landed, set off the buzzer.

Pitt was headed toward an easy layup when the buzzer sounded, stopping play.

"It was strange," Dixon said. "It was a little different play, a little different ending."

Block party

Pitt junior center Dante Taylor, who has been on the wrong end of some blocked shots this season, had a little payback against Oklahoma State. Taylor blocked four shots, tying a career high, and also had eight points and seven rebounds. Taylor had one shot blocked, by 6-foot-11, 270-pound junior Phillip Jurick, who had six blocks.

Shiny and new

This was Pitt's first trip to Madison Square Garden since the venerable arena underwent a $1 billion facelift.

The renovations to the 19,763-seat building were extensive and impressive.

"I'm amazed," said Randi Sigal, 52, of O'Hara, at the game with her husband, Michael. "It looks great."

While the major changes to the Garden's seating area will be done in future phases, there were some minor adjustments.

"I thought we were in a bad section," said Rick Sirianni, 50, of Marshall Township. "But they changed the (section) numbers, and it turned out to be good."

Saturday was Pitt's 40th game at the Garden since 2000-01, but there may not be many trips left to the World's Most Famous Arena for the ACC-bound Panthers.

Getting a chance

Former undrafted Pitt players Tyrell Biggs, Gilbert Brown and Brad Wanamaker are trying to make quick impressions at NBA training camps.

Biggs (Cavaliers), Brown (Celtics) and Wanamaker (Hawks) were part of post-lockout workouts that began Friday.

Brown and Wanamaker each played in Europe during the lockout. Brown is looking to earn a spot with the Celtics, who have only seven players under contract.

Biggs, who played the past two seasons in Europe, was taken by the Canton Charge, the Cavs' top D-League affiliate, with the 15th overall pick in the D-League draft in November.

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