Panthers face rival without Gibbs
Share with others:
One of the strengths of fourth-ranked Pitt is depth and it could come in handy tonight.
The Panthers (21-2, 9-1 Big East) will be without at least one of their best players -- possibly two -- when they play at West Virginia (15-7, 6-4).
Junior point guard Ashton Gibbs, who is Pitt's leading scorer and best outside shooter, injured his left knee -- it is officially listed as a medial collateral ligament injury -- and will miss tonight's game. He is likely out for at least 10 days.
Gibbs scored 25 points in Pitt's win Saturday against Cincinnati. His injury was not discovered until Sunday morning.
Pitt vs. WVU
- The matchup: No. 4 Pitt (21-2, 9-1 Big East) vs. West Virginia (15-7, 6-4), 7 p.m. today, WVU Coliseum, Morgantown, W.Va.
- TV, Radio: ESPN; KDKA-FM (93.7)
- Pitt: Is 14-7 in past 21 games against Mountaineers. ... Lost in previous trip to West Virginia, 70-51. ... Will be without starting point guard Ashton Gibbs (MCL) and could be without forward Dante Taylor (sore knees). ... Coming off a 71-59 win against Cincinnati. ... Has won five road games in a row and is 17-6 in last 23 road games.
- West Virginia: Leads the all-time series, 95-85. .... Coming off 66-50 loss to Villanova. ... Casey Mitchell (16.6 ppg) is the Mountaineers leading scorer. ... Two leading rebounders are Kevin Jones (7.1 rpg) and John Flowers (6.6 rpg). ... Outrebound opponents by 4.5 rebounds per game
- Hidden stat: Pitt is 5-5 in past 10 games in Morgantown.
The Panthers will need someone to step up and fill his role, particularly as an outside shooter. Gibbs has carried the offense at times this season.
In Gibbs' absence, junior Travon Woodall likely will step into the starting point guard role and see increased minutes.
Senior Brad Wanamaker will be an option at backup point guard. He has played both at point and shooting guard positions during his career. Wanamaker has filled in at the point when Pitt has had injuries in the past.
Pitt also could use a lineup of Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, Nasir Robinson, Gary McGhee and J.J. Moore or Lamar Patterson, who is back from a one-game suspension.
In that lineup, Wanamaker would be the point guard and Brown and Moore could fill a two-guard role because both are capable of making 3-pointers.
The other injured player, sophomore forward Dante Taylor, has sore knees and will be a game-time decision.
Taylor missed most of last week's practices and also sat out of the 71-59 win against Cincinnati.
If Taylor is out too, the Panthers will be without two of their top seven scorers as well as their third leading rebounder.
"I didn't think Dante was ready to go," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said after the game. "I would guess [Taylor will be a game-time decision]. ... He was pretty sore [Saturday] and didn't feel good at all, there was no decision to be made."
Dixon used J.J. Richardson and Talib Zanna to play most of the minutes usually reserved for Taylor. That likely would be the plan again, Dixon said..
"I thought we got great performances out of J.J. Richardson, J.J. Moore and Talib Zanna," Dixon said after Saturday night's game. "That was great to see; we need more of that from them."
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin spoke of Gibbs' importance to the Panthers Saturday night after Gibbs, who averages 16.3 points per game, torched the Bearcats.
"Gibbs is one of the best players in the country," Cronin said. "When you shoot the ball the way he shoots the ball when people are guarding you, it is tough, he breaks your back. Two of his [3-pointers], we were right on him. He is a great player."
West Virginia is coming off a 66-50 loss at Villanova but has notched some impressive wins this year. The Mountaineers play a tough, brand of physical defense.
The Mountaineers, who were a Final Four team last year, pounded the Panthers last season in Morgantown, 70-51, but the game was marred with an ugly incident of fans throwing debris on the court. A quarter hit Pitt assistant coach Tom Herrion just below the eye. A technical foul was called on the Mountaineers and the school subsequently apologized for fan behavior.
Pitt players remember that game.
"It is always a battle with West Virginia," Brown said. "And we owe them because the last time we went down there it was really a tough out. I was held scoreless, Brad was held scoreless. They really outplayed us in every part of the game. I think we want to go down there, especially the seniors, and finish it right.
"We know what we are in for, they are a great rebounding team, but we have to step it up."
• Game: No. 4 Pitt (21-2, 9-1 Big East) at No. 25 West Virginia (15-7, 6-4).
• When: 7 p.m.
• TV: ESPN.
First Published February 7, 2011 12:00 am