It’s been since Dec. 20, but the Panthers finally got a win, snapping its longest losing streak in eight games. Here are some notes and quotes from the much-needed win.
*** Ashton Gibbs scored 14 of its team-high 22 points in a 3:05 span of the first half, including four 3-pointers in a row in the first half to give Pitt a 44-29 lead. His final 3-pointer, after a J.J. Moore block, got the crowd of 10,049 as loud as it was all game. He hit the final two from the same spot on the right wing. Gibbs, who shot 27 percent from 3-point range during the eight-game losing streak, obviously relished the return of Tray Woodall to game-form.
“I was feeling it,” Gibbs said. “Once one shot went in, I just felt good and continued to take the rest.”
*** If there was any doubt how important Woodall is to the Panthers, tonight answered it. The junior point guard had 17 points, nine assists and one turnover in 29 minutes. Providence coach Ed Cooley said about Woodall, “They are a totally different team. Everybody is in their role. Everybod is in their comfort zone.”
Said Woodall, “It’s great to be out here on the court with my team.”
*** With Gibbs and Woodall excelling, it was easy to overlook Lamar Patterson, who had another strong game with nine points, a team-high 11 rebounds and three steals.
*** The best player on the court was Providence guard Vincent Council, who scored 26 points — but needed to take 24 shots to get there. The junior had 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals. His 26 points was the second-most allowed by the Panthers this year, trailing only LBSU’s Casper Ware (28 points). Coach Jamie Dixon singled out Council in the post-game press conference, noting how Pitt had prepared for him and knew what he was going to do, and still had trouble keeping him out of the lane.
“Council is a really good player. He did some great things out there,” Dixon said.
“He was unbelievable out there today,” Cooley said of his star guard.
*** Junior center Dante Taylor played only 14 minutes while battling with a back injury. He had four points and two rebounds. Dixon said afterward that “I didn’t think he was going to play, to be honest. He was very sore.”
*** Dixon also revealed that freshman guard John Johnson was playing with a severely swollen ankle that kept the Philly native out of practice on Tuesday. Johnson had seven points on 3 of 4 shooting with two assists in 13 turnover-free minutes.
“Half of the injuries that we’ve had people aren’t aware of. It’s taken away our rhythm in practice,” Dixon said.
*** With the game still tight in the first half, Pitt used offensive rebounds to get some baskets. Patterson, J.J. Moore and Nasir Robinson all scored off offensive rebounds in the first 11 minutes of the first half. Pitt, which has had trouble finishing after offensive rebounds, had 18 second-chance points in the game.
*** Pitt has led by at least seven points in the first half of six of its eight losses and built another big first-half lead tonight. Pitt didn’t let this one slip away. Providence got to within seven in the second half, but Pitt answered with a 6-0 run. The Friars had a chance to cut the Pitt lead to five with a minute to play but Council missed a 3-pointer that would have made it 81-76.
Providence also missed a 3-pointer and a layup in the final seconds to preserve a 12-point win for the Panthers (and keep Pitt’s Vegas backers happy as an 10-point favorite).
*** To a man, Pitt realized this was only one win and the Panthers are still tied for last place in the Big East. ”We’ve still got a lot more winning to do,” Robinson said.
Said Dixon, ”This is a starting point.”