Once again, Pitt found a different way and a different go-to guy, or set of go-to guys, to pull out a win. Pitt beat Seton Hall before a crowd of 9,236 at the Petersen Events Center--a large crowd, given the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing the Baltimore Ravens across town at Heinz Field.
Pitt improves to 17-1 overall, 5-0 in the Big East. It's just the fourth time ever that Pitt has started a season 5-0 in conference play. Seton Hall drops to 8-10 overall, 2-4 in the Big East.
While it was Ashton Gibbs who came out with 22 points, including a 5-of-10 performance from three-point range on Wednesday night in a win over Georgetown, Saturday night's Pitt win had a completely different look to it. Pitt won with a dominant effort on the glass--a 51-24 edge in rebounding, led by strong performances from a pair of seniors in Brad Wanamaker and Gary McGhee.
Wanamaker came close to a triple-double, with nine points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Gary McGhee came through with the eighth double-double of his career, and his fifth of the season, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
"I think it shows we have a lot of guys who can contribute to our team; other guys stepping up," Wanamaker said after the game. "Dante (Taylor) played well. Gary had a double-double. Everybody contributed in different ways tonight, whether it was rebounding, passing or playing good defense."
Taylor, though a seven-point, five-rebound performance doesn't look like much, was playing at a much faster pace. It's clear that his comfort level is increasing with each game. He went hard to the hole for his first layup of the game, weaving through Seton Hall defenders, and finishing with a reverse layup. Pitt led 11-7 with 13:27 left in the first half. He sent his team into the locker room with a steal at half court. He then ran the ball up court and finished off with a spectacular dunk at the buzzer, putting his team up 33-18 at the half.
Taylor even helped out in the assist department, dishing out a quick pass inside to a slashing Nasir Robinson, who finished with the easy layup, putting Pitt up 51-36 with 11 minutes left in the game.
"I definitely feel more comfortable," Taylor said after the game. "Me going hard in practice against Gary, just carrying over to the game. Every game I just try to come out more confident in the next game, and carry it over. I definitely feel more confident."
One thing that Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard hoped for entering this game, was a strong rebounding effort from his guards. Wanamaker was a big part of taking that effort away, evidenced by the seven rebounds from his guard spot.
Willard felt his guards would come up with those rebounds, and was even willing to put up some long-range three-pointers in the process. Things didn't pan out that way, as his team shot a collective 3-of-14 from three-point range. He credited Wanamaker as being the catalyst of that.
"He's what I call a ‘glue' guy," Willard said of Wanamaker. "He's the kind of guy who goes out there and plays hard, runs the offense, does everything that they ask him to do. He's unselfish. He's a very good defender too. I don't think he gets enough credit for the defense he plays. He gives a lot of guys trouble on the defensive end."
After getting up by 15 at the break thanks to Taylor's heads up play as time expired in the first half, the Panthers cruised to a 20-point lead, 60-40, with 7:50 left in the half. Though Gibbs was quiet for much of the game, he still made his presence felt with a three-pointer to give the Panthers that 60-40 lead; its biggest lead of the game to that point. Though he shot just 2-of-9 from three-point range, Gibbs still finished with eight points and four rebounds.
Also finishing in double-figures for Pitt was Talib Zanna, his third game in double-figures this season, with 10 points. Seton Hall was led by Herb Pope, who finished with a double-double of his own with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Theodore added 11 for the Pirates, followed by Jeff Robinson with 10.
"We really wanted to beat them out on the glass by a big number, and 24 (51-27) is a big margin," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. "We didn't shoot it great. Offense wasn't ideal, but we had a lot of great (looks), some nice passing."