Pitt Basketball: Guard shines in easy victory Guards spark win

Woodall supplies answers to questions with double-double

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One of the burning questions before the season was whether 10th-ranked Pitt would have a stable backcourt after the graduation of dependable two-year starter Brad Wanamaker.

Sure, Ashton Gibbs was back for another season, but what about that fourth-year player who could never nailed down a starting job until now?

Well, Tray Woodall, the redshirt junior point guard, put a lot of those questions to rest in an 89-56 victory against Albany in the season opener Friday at the Petersen Events Center.

Woodall had a double-double, scoring a career-high 25 points and dishing out 10 assists. Woodall also set a career high with five 3-pointers.

"It felt good out there," Woodall said. "I've been working on my shot. When teams are keying on Ashton, I'm going to have to knock down shots."

Albany coach Will Brown's game plan was to let anyone but Gibbs to take outside shots. Brown did not want Gibbs, Pitt's leading scorer the past two seasons, to beat his Great Danes. He was willing to take a chance on Woodall, a career 26 percent 3-point shooter.

"Halfway through the game I thought Gibbs was wearing No. 1 the way Woodall shot the ball," Brown said, noting Woodall's jersey number. "I saw Woodall play a lot in high school. The one thing he wasn't was a consistent outside shooter. He deserves a lot of credit. The 10 assists from Woodall didn't surprise us. The 25 points and the five 3s does surprise us."

Woodall's previous career high was 19 in a game against Wichita State in 2009. He had never made more than five field goals in a game, and his career high in 3-pointers was two. He was 9 for 13 from the field and 5 for 7 from 3-point range.

"He took 13 shots, and they were all good shots," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "He had patience and let things come to him."

Woodall's performance overshadowed one of Gibbs' most complete games in a Pitt uniform. Gibbs scored 21 points, tied a career high with seven assists and committed only one turnover in 30 minutes.

Throw in the contributions of reserves John Johnson and Isaiah Epps, and Pitt's guards accounted for 56 of the team's 89 points.

Pitt's 15th consecutive season-opening victory was never much of a contest. The Panthers led, 47-26, at halftime. They put the game out of reach early with a 23-8 run over a seven-minute span that grew the lead to 27-11 with 10:02 remaining in the first half.

Johnson played 13 minutes because J.J. Moore was suspended for one game for a secondary NCAA violation for playing in an unauthorized summer league basketball game in New York. That forced Cameron Wright, who will be the first guard off the bench when Moore returns, into duty as the backup small forward.

Johnson immediately made his presence felt. Shortly after checking into the game, he stepped in front of a pass and recorded the first steal of his career. On the ensuing Pitt possession, with the shot clock winding down, Johnson calmly made the first shot of his career, a 3-pointer that gave the Panthers a 23-8 lead.

"I was kind of nervous," said Johnson who played sparingly in the final exhibition game Monday night. "But once you knock down that first shot the nervousness goes away."

Johnson finished with eight points.

NOTES -- Freshman Khem Birch, the highly touted forward/center, had two points and three rebounds in 17 minutes. ... Freshman center Malcolm Gilbert fractured a finger in practice Thursday and did not play. ... Pitt won the rebounding battle, 35-23, and had 24 assists on their 34 baskets.


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