ROSEMONT, ILL. – No. 5 Pitt harassed DePaul freshman sensation Cleveland Melvin into his worst game in league play, and cruised to an 80-50 victory to remain alone in first place in the Big East.
Pitt (19-1, 7-0) held last-place DePaul to the lowest point total by any Big East team in a conference game this season and dropped the Blue Demons to 1-43 in their past 44 league games.
It is the most lopsided Big East road victory for Pitt, topping a 27-point win (88-61) at Providence on March 2, 2004.
“I was really happy how we played and passed the ball and took care of the ball at the same time,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “They made that (second-half) run and I liked how we responded.”
With the win, Pitt matched its second-best start after 20 games in program’s history, surpassed only by the 20-0 start by the 1927-28 Panthers.
Melvin, who was averaging 22.7 points and 7.5 rebounds in conference play and is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year, finished with a team-high 11 points, but was only 4 of 13 from the field.
“They were being aggressive with me and fighting me the whole game,” said Melvin, who scored 29 at Georgetown and 25 against Connecticut in the past month. “I know there are going to be games like that. They are the most physical team I’ve played this year.”
Gilbert Brown scored a game-high 17 points, junior guard Ashton Gibbs added 13 — becoming the 38th Pitt player to reach 1,000 career points along the way – and Gary McGhee grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds, while scoring five points. Brad Wanamaker had nine points and nine assists.
“I think they are a great basketball team,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “They are so deep and so physical.”
The Panthers will try to remain perfect in the Big East when it plays host to No. 16 Notre Dame (15-4, 4-3 heading into Saturday night’s game against Marquette) on Monday at Petersen Events Center.
Pitt missed 10 of its first 11 shots in the second half, allowing DePaul to trim Pitt’s 17-point lead to a 44-37 edge on Tony Freeland’s layup with 12:31 to play in the game. But Pitt went on a 17-3 run – including five points from Lamar Patterson and back-to-back 3-pointers from Gibbs, the latter putting him over 1,000 points for his career – to push the lead back to 61-40 with seven minutes to play in the game.
All told, Pitt outscored DePaul 36-13 over the final 12 minutes.
“We are a very composed team,” Wanamaker said. “They went on a run, but we just stuck with it, broke their press and got some easy layups.”