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Board work big for Pitt basketball

March 18, 2011
By Michael Boytim

WASHINGTON, D.C. -Pittsburgh spent the second half of its second round NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina-Asheville proving to everyone how tough of an out the Panthers will be this season - even Pitt radio color man Dick Groat got involved.

The 80-year-old former Duke basketball player, and Pirates shortstop, absorbed a vicious hit from a diving Nasir Robinson that knocked him from his seat. He continued to announce the Panthers' 74-51 drubbing of the No. 16 seeded Bulldogs.

"I'm so happy with how well we defended for the most part," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "We rebounded well obviously for 40 minutes, and that's what we do."

When it was finally over, Pitt had built up a 50-27 rebounding advantage that left UNC-Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach searching for answers.

"You can't lose the rebounding differential that much and stay in the game," Biedenbach said. "I'll have to use a better technique on how I teach rebounding. Maybe I'll get the Big South officials to come in and help me with how we're supposed to teach it and play."

Pitt got at least five rebounds from five different players.

"I think our depth probably wore them down at times," Dixon said. "Gary [McGhee] had 11 rebounds and Gilbert [Brown] had nine. We really wanted to focus on that, getting rebounds from everyone, our guards as well."

The Panthers have had a pretty firm hold in the paint during Dixon's tenure as coach but will face a stiff challenge in the third round against Butler.

The Bulldogs outrebounded Old Dominion, which was actually ranked higher than Pitt in rebounds per game in the NCAA this season, to advance and get a shot at the top-seeded Panthers.

"[Butler] is very aggressive on the ball, and we've got to be prepared for a physical defense from them. They are probably the most physical team we'll play this year."

For at least a half, UNC-Asheville was doing a fine job at hanging with Pitt's physical presence.

The Bulldogs trailed just 30-25 at the half and were only being outrebounded, 27-15.

Asheville pulled within three twice in the second half, but Ashton Gibbs' 3-point shooting and Pitt's depth helped the Panthers outscore the Bulldogs, 42-22, in the final 18:25.

"They have a lot of quality players on that Pitt team," Biedenbach said. "They go eight-deep and they don't lose any ground at all in high-quality play."

Gibbs scored just six points for Pitt in a sloppy first half but came through with 20 in the final 20 minutes to finish as the game's high scorer.

"I just try to move without the ball, and my teammates did a great job of passing me the ball to get open shots," Gibbs said. "I just tried to take advantage of it and knock it down."

Matt Dickey, who hit a game-tying 3-pointer for UNC-Asheville against Arkansas Little Rock to send that game to overtime, led the Bulldogs with 21 points.

"It was a physical game, and Pittsburgh is a very good team," Dickey said. "We knew we had to play really, really well and rebound. They hit a couple 3-pointers, made a run and I think we got a little tired."

The Panthers connected on eight treys, six by Gibbs.

"We knew before the game what a greater shooter [Gibbs] is," Biedenbach said. "You just can't give those kind of guys open 3-pointers."

Following the victory, Pitt didn't celebrate. The Panthers have bigger goals than helping No. 1 seeds remain unbeaten against No. 16 seeds since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

"We're really focused on the next game," Dixon said. "They're focused solely on Butler, and there's no thought to what's after that."

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