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No. 5 Pitt handles Marquette 89-81

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Ashton Gibbs scored 19 points and Brad Wanamaker led a first-half surge in which No. 5 Pitt opened up a 16-point lead, carrying the hot-shooting Panthers past Marquette 89-81 on Saturday. Wanamaker scored 15 points and Gilbert Brown added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Panthers, who shot 60 percent from the floor and 55% from 3-point land.

Sparked by five 3-pointers from Ashton Gibbs and a big advantage in defensive boards and blocks, No. 5 Pitt defeated Marquette 89-81 Saturday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center. With neither team turning the ball over much, Pitt's precision from beyond the arc proved to be the difference in a game featuring two of the highest scoring squads in the Big East.

Four players scored in the double digits for the Panthers (15-1, 3-0 in the Big East), led by Ashton Gibbs' 19. Brad Wanamaker netted 15, Gilbert Brown scored 14 and Gary McGhee muscled his way to a 12 point day as Pitt shot a season-best 60 percent from the field. With Brown adding two 3's and Wanamaker, Travon Woodall and Lamar Patterson getting a trey apiece, the Panthers shot 10-for-18 from 3-point land.

While the Panthers committed a season-worst 23 turnovers in a nail-biter over Providence earlier in the week, they coughed the ball up just 10 times against the Golden Eagles (11-5, 2-1 in the Big East). Entering the game ranked second in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio, Pitt's smooth ball handling resulted in six assists for Wanamaker and five for Gibbs. The Panthers had 24 helpers overall on 30 field goals.

Marquette protected the ball even better, with just two turnovers on the day. Darius Johnson-Odom registered a game-high 20 points. Dwight Buycks equaled Gibbs with 19, All-Big East selection Jimmy Butler had 17 points and junior college transfer Jae Crowder scored 10. But the Golden Eagles shot 41.5 percent from the field, and Pitt snatched 27 defensive rebounds off Marquette misses. Overall, Pitt outrebounded the Golden Eagles 38-29.

In addition to sinking 3's, protecting the ball and enjoying a boards advantage, Pitt blocked six shots on the day. McGhee batted away three Golden Eagles opportunities, while Brown, Dante Taylor and Talib Zanna each denied Marquette once.  

McGhee, who also scored on all five of his shots, drew praise from Panthers coach Jamie Dixon.

"One thing you can't question is Gary McGhee's work ethic," Dixon said. "He's working so hard. Every day he's out there working with different coaches, working on finishing and finishing higher. It's nice to see hard work pay off."

Finishing more often, the 6-foot-11 senior has become more than just a source of rebounds for Pitt. McGhee has scored in double digits in four of the Panthers' last five games.

With the victory over Marquette, Pitt is now averaging 81.2 points per game this season. The Panthers have many brutal conference games left, but that scoring average would rank as the best of Dixon's coaching tenure and would obliterate last year's 68.8 point average.

"Are we better than last year's team offensively? I think we can be," said Dixon. "And we're heading in that direction."

PLAY OF THE DAY

Less than two minutes into the second half, Gilbert Brown bounced a pass under the basket to Gary McGhee, who rumbled forward, dunked and let out a scream to put Pitt up 53-39.

QUOTABLE

"We just had a good win, and now we have to go play the No. 1 team in RPI in Georgetown on Wednesday."
-- Panthers coach Jamie Dixon on his team's next big test in Big East play

TEAM STATS

FG%:
PITT 60.0, MARQ 41.5

FT%: PITT 70.4, MARQ 74.1

3-PT: PITT  55.6, MARQ 35.0

RBS: PITT 38 , MARQ 29

LEADERS

Scoring: PITT- Gibbs 19; MARQ- Johnson-Odom 20

Rebounds: PITT- Brown 7; MARQ- Butler, Crowder 7

Assists: PITT- Wanamaker 6; MARQ- Johnson-Odom 5

Blocks: PITT- McGhee 3; MARQ- None

NEXT UP

The Panthers travel to Georgetown to take on the Hoyas, upset earlier on Saturday by West Virginia, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The Golden Eagles return to the Bradley Center for a 7 p.m. contest versus Top 15 Notre Dame on Monday.

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