by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
Over the weekend Pittsburgh learned that it would be heading into its toughest road stretch of the season, at West Virginia and Villanova, without its leading-scorer, Ashton Gibbs, who will miss close to two weeks with a knee injury.
At least so far, he hasn’t been missed, as the Panthers were able to top West Virginia on 71-66 on Monday.
Filling in for Gibbs was Travon Woodall, who chipped in 12 points. Woodall was one of the Panthers who were instrumental in overcoming the team’s two-point halftime deficit. After the sluggish start, Pittsburgh scored 48 points in the second half and handed West Virginia’s its second straight defeat.
What the Panthers missed from Gibbs from the perimeter (they shot just 1-for-6 from deep), they made up for on the glass. Pittsburgh’s decisive 39-to-25 rebounding edge, including 18-to-6 on the offensive boards, was the primary reason it improved to 22-2.
Jamie Dixon knows the loss of Gibbs is hard to overcome, but he believes they still have the personnel to win.
From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said losing Gibbs obviously hurts, but he sent a very clear message to his team before the game that if everybody does their job, the Panthers (22-2, 10-1) would win.
“We just had to play the way we play, do the things we do and execute,” Dixon said. “No one really had to do anything different, or shoot more 3s,” or become a different player overnight.
“They just had to do what we do and play like we play when [Gibbs] is not in the game or in the lineup at practice.”
The real test for the Panthers will come on Saturday against Villanova. The Wildcats are once again a team stacked with talented guards, and the loss of Gibbs should be more obvious in this contest. That being said, beating Villanova without Gibbs should erase any remaining doubts that Pittsburgh is the best team in the Big East.