Pitt didn't play its best game to be sure. It shot poorly and didn't get much production from its bench, but in the end, it was enough for a comfortable win against a quality non-conference opponent.
In its final non-conference matchup of the season, Pitt started fast and after allowing American to hang in the game for a bit, won 61-46. Pitt arguably won this game with their defense, but free throws didn't hurt either.
Yes, free throws.
While Pitt only shot 52% from the stripe, they had 25 attempts to only four for American. Even while missing that many, Pitt still made ten more shots from the line than the Eagles and that was a big reason the Panthers were able to win the game.
More good news is that Gilbert Brown had a third consecutive strong game. He followed up his career-high 28-point game with 15 more tonight and he's averaged about 20 points per game over his past three. Gil is still having a few hiccups, but it doesn't appear to be as bad as last season. Even the two games this season when he only scored four points weren't complete disasters as he found other ways to contribute. In a 2-13 effort against North Florida, he grabbed six boards and had four assists and in a four-point, 1-5 game in the City Game, he had seven assists (one short of a career high).
But the best player on the court wasn't Brown or any other Panther - it was AU's Vlad Moldoveanu who had 23 points and shot inside and out. I won't go as far to say that Moldoveanu is an NBA player, but as I mentioned in the game preview on Tuesday, he could be. At 6'9", out there shooting the three, he reminds me of another guy with a similar game - Vladimir Radmanovic. And no, this isn't a comparison just because we've got two guys named Vlad. Radman was a oversized SF in the NBA who could shoot the three and Moldoveanu could fill that role nicely if he can improve his three-point shooting a bit.
Dante Taylor is another guy I'm taking more notice of, and he had a good game tonight going for nine points and seven rebounds off the bench. I'll have more on him later this week.
Then, of course, there was Dixon's 200th win. As expected, he downplayed it afterwards:
"It wasn't something I spent all night thinking about going into it," Dixon said of No. 200. "It was very thoughtful of the players ... that's probably what means the most to me. They talked about the hard work and dedication but, of course, I corrected them and told them it was good players that was most important."
Only Mark Few of Gonzaga and Roy Williams of Kansas also made it to 200 victories in their eighth season -- reflecting, in part, the number of games schools now play. Pitt has won fewer than 25 games only once since Dixon replaced Ben Howland as coach in 2003.
"We're going to stick with the formula, and that's good players," Dixon said. "Anyone that's relying on coaching is not going to be successful."
American coach Jeff Jones had classy words for Dixon:
"Look at the consistency -- that says a lot about the job he's done," Jones said. "It's not as if Pitt has the tradition of a Kansas or a Duke, but the last 8-9 seasons, they're right there."
I'm not going to get into Dixon again this week. He's had articles all over the place this week and I just talked about Dixon on Tuesday. But obviously, this is a significant accomplishment. Not 200 wins in and of itself, but the speed in which he got there.
Next up for Pitt - a matchup with No. 4 UConn on Monday at the Pete. Should be crazy.