Game Notes: Pitt vs. UNC-Asheville
Pitt rolls to win in second half.
by Aaron Kaplowitz
The UNC-Asheville Bulldogs became the first 16-seed to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Fortunately for the 1-seed Pittsburgh Panthers, UNC-Asheville made history against Arkansas-Little Rock two days prior in the first ever 16-vs-16 First Four match-up, and not at their expense.
Although the Bulldogs, with one of the toughest out-of-conference schedules in the nation, proved they could hang with Pitt through the first 30 minutes, the Panthers stretched the top seeds’ opening game record to 105-0 all time, coasting to a 74-51 win after a tight first half in Washington, DC on Thursday.
“This was a really good a way to go out,” Asheville senior Eric Stubbs said. “But I wish it would go on longer.”
Bulldogs junior guard Matt Dickey netted two free throws with 18:24 to play in the second half to bring the Big South conference champions within three. The Panthers, led by 20 second-half points from Ashton Gibbs, closed the game with a 42-22 run and will face the other Bulldogs from Butler on Saturday following their dramatic buzzer-beating victory over Old Dominion earlier in the day.
UNC-Asheville stacked its regular-season schedule with games against Auburn, North Carolina, Georgetown, and Ohio State. On Thursday, their experience was apparent. The Bulldogs came out fearlessly and took the game straight to Pitt coach Jamie Dixon’s squad.
“Playing against those teams prepares us well,” said Dickey, who led his team with 21 points and appeared in control against the country’s top college talents.
Dickey, who was held to only 4 points in Asheville’s December match-up with Ohio State, offered praise for both schools. But when pressed to compare them, he gave the edge to the Tournament’s top-seeded team.
“Both teams have great guards, they’re both big inside,” Dickey said. “Not to take anything away from Pitt, but I’d say Ohio State is better. If that match-up comes later in the Tournament, it will be fun to watch because those teams are both really good.”
Gibbs, though he appeared agitated, took Dickey’s assessment in stride. “We’ve been living with doubters the whole season, and that’s what motivates us,” Gibbs said. “We’re going to take that [quote] and use it for the rest of the season.”