With starting point guard Tray Woodall on the shelf until late December, Pittsburgh looked in another direction in search of a play-making guard capable of running an offense.
In steps Preseason Big East Player of the Year Ashton Gibbs. The senior guard led the Panthers to a 61-56 road victory against Tennessee on Saturday in the Big East/SEC Challenge.
He struggled to find his way in the first half, but he made it look easy in the second half. Not only did he score 16 points but he dished out six assists.
NBA scouts were wondering if Gibbs was capable of running an offense at the next level. Gibbs hasn’t proved he could do so until Tennessee on Saturday. He played a game that scouts could go back on and say, “Hey, look what this kid did without one of the best point guards in the league.”
It wasn’t just Gibbs though, it was several others that stepped up and filled the void. Nasir Robinson recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Robinson and freshman forward Khem Birch were extremely active on the glass. Birch grabbed five of his own rebounds including rebounds that gave the Panthers second-chance opportunities. Pitt collected 14 offensive rebounds in the game, Robinson provided nine.
Pitt’s defense held the Volunteers to just 45 percent shooting from the floor and 29 percent from beyond the arc. The Vols' great interior player, Jeronne Maymon, was held to one rebound.
It was a successful team effort from the Panthers.
They are playing without one of the best point guards in the league. Pitt missing Woodall will only benefit the team when he returns.
Jamie Dixon looks to have another solid club in 2011.