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Pitt Basketball: Ashton Gibbs Back From Injury For St. John's Game

Gibbs will be back in black, er, blue, Saturday (Photo by Mitchell LaytonGetty Images)
Gibbs will be back in black, er, blue, Saturday (Photo by Mitchell LaytonGetty Images)
Getty Images

It seemed we were headed in this direction and on Thursday, the news was confirmed - Ashton Gibbs will return for Saturday's game. And while Pitt is 3-0 without Gibbs, if you've been watching, you know the offense just hasn't been the same.

Pitt's offense in the three games Gibbs has missed has been down, averaging only 65 points per game - that's down about nine points from their Big East average of approximately 74. Pitt did an amazing job to find ways to win games against West Virginia, Villanova, and South Florida, but they're obviously a much better team with Gibbs.

Travon Woodall, who's been filling in for Gibbs, recognized the offense wasn't as good:

“[Dixon] shows us that we’re a veteran group and prepares us well enough to go out there and play our game,” Woodall said. “Obviously, our scoring kind of went down, but we got to step up on defense and do a lot more of the things we didn’t when we had Ashton in the line-up.”

It'd be nice if the defense was just as good regardless of how the offense performed, but there's always a tradeoff.

A huge benefit is that Pitt's bench can return to normal. While Woodall played significantly more minutes, his numbers didn't really improve. Woodall averaged 32 minutes per game since Gibbs has been out (about 11 more than his average before), but averaged only about 1.5 more points per game. Even worse, he actually averaged slightly fewer assists and rebounds per game. Woodall didn't play horribly in Gibbs' absence, but he is much better suited for a bench role right now.

Gibbs isn't completely healthy, but he says he's close to it:

"It's close to 100 percent," he said. "I can feel it a little bit, but it's nothing major at all. It's definitely close to 100 percent. I'll just keep taking it day by day, rest it, ice it and keep playing on it."

Gibbs is also back in practice and he hasn't had any restrictions:

The 6-foot-2 Gibbs, injured Feb. 5 against Cincinnati, took part in his first full-contact practice Thursday.

He said he didn’t feel any soreness after practice. And following a visit with Pitt trainer Tony Salesi, Gibbs, who grew up in West Orange, N.J., was cleared to play in his hometown.

"I went all-out (at practice)," he said. "I felt good. It’s not sore or anything. It feels normal. (Salesi) told me everything was fine."

So is Gibbs starting? For now, who knows...even he doesn't:

Gibbs said he doesn't know if there is a limit on his playing time or if he will start or come off the bench Saturday. Coach Jamie Dixon wasn't available for comment after Pitt's practice.

"Whether I come off the bench or whether I start, I’m just going to play my game," Gibbs said. "I think I will be able to start. I’m back to normal. It’s my job not to think about the injury."

Starting or off the bench, it's good to have him back.