No one really expected Pitt to win in Milwaukee. So when the Panthers stormed to a 9 point lead with *gasp* good shooting and rebounding, many started thinking that Pitt had a chance. Alas, it was not meant to be. Again. But if you watched the game, outside of the 6:30 in the second half that was one giant pile of fail, Pitt played pretty well today against a tough Marquette team.
Ashton Gibbs, where have you been all conference play? Because this is the kind of performance we've been wanting out of you for a while. Gibbs, who is now Pitt's all-time leader in made three-pointers, had 29 points today on 8-16 shooting and was 4-8 from three-point range.
But in the end, it was the Gibbs show. And unfortunately, that won't cut it in Big East play. Someone else has to step up and become a scoring option if Pitt wants to continue being competitive and start winning games.
Some more breakdown after the jump.Isaiah Epps got his first start of his career today and despite not making any shots, he played well. He's a much better option than Gibbs is at the point and, especially in the first half, was able to find shooters (mainly Gibbs).
But Pitt had a nice 41-36 lead in the second half and a chance to extend their lead when all of a sudden, the old Pitt returned. The BAD Pitt team that scored 39 against Rutgers. Marquette started applying a full-court press and Pitt had absolutely no answers. Pitt has normally not played well against a full-court press, but with past teams, they have been able to break it with more experienced teams. Not today. Pitt would get trapped at the half-court line and turnover the ball multiple times which resulted in a 13-0 MU run. It would also force Jamie Dixon to use all but his last timeout, leaving Pitt with just one timeout for essentially the last 10 minutes.
Unlike past games though, Pitt fought back and got within three points with just under a minute to play. But a Marquette offensive rebound with 18 seconds left and two subsequent made free throws ended Pitt's chances.
The start of the second half is almost always pointed to by coaches as one of the most critical times in the game. Those first five or so minutes can win or lose you the game. While Pitt was able to maintain a five-point lead, they also committed seven fouls before Marquette even had their 1st, and several of them were offensive fouls. Obviously, it is something to work on, especially with the Panthers heading up to Syracuse to face the undefeated Orange on Monday.
Dante Taylor. Man, where to even begin? Is it safe to label Taylor as one of the biggest busts in recent Pitt history? He just hasn't shown much of anything to prove otherwise and today, it was another forgettable outing for him. In just four minutes of playing time, he picked up thre fouls. And of course, without Khem Birch, Pitt really doesn't have depth at the position. Malcolm Gilbert, while he has upside, is still very raw on the offensive end. Nas is struggling at putting easy shots away. Pitt has to find interior scoring from somewhere.
Whenever Tray comes back and Nas gets back on his game, Pitt is dangerous, especially to a squad who will overlook the Panthers based on their record. But right now, Pitt is just starting to get things moving. If this game was at home, maybe Pitt wins. Again, who knows. At the very least, it's a step in right direction with a road trip to Syracuse on Monday.