Over 6,000 fans made their way to The Petersen Events Center Saturday afternoon to see Jamie Dixon debut his 2011-2012 Pitt Panther hoops team.
Pitt held its annual Blue-Gold team scrimmage that featured Ashton Gibbs pouring in 26 points to lead the Blue over the Gold 57-49. The game was the culmination of the annual fanfest and Maggie Dixon Heart Health Fair held at The Pete in honor of men's coach Jamie Dixon's late sister, Maggie.
Gibbs, a preseason All-America was 7-13 shooting and 10-10 from the free throw line, scoring 15 2nd half points. In addition to seeing Gibbs play, Redshirt freshman guard Isaiah Epps added nine points for the Blue and sophomore forward Lamar Patterson had eight.
"We've got a long way to go,' said Dixon after the scrimmage. "We've had six, seven practices. We've got six freshman coming in that need to learn. That's the challenge to get them ready to play, to keep the going through the setbacks and there's got to be progress with this time."
Junior Dante Taylor and sophmore J.J. Moore led the gold. Taylor had 10 points and 14 rebounds while Moore had a team high 18, going 3 of 9 from three point range. Perhaps the most exciting play coming from Taylor is that eight of his 14 rebounds came on the offensive side. A stat that caught coach Dixon's attention.
"He's playing well. He's healthy and has practiced well. He's a better player now this year than he was last year. His confidence level is up and he's now the old guy on the floor with so many young players around him. He has to stay healthy and injuries bothered him and hurt him last year. Nothing good comes out of that."
As for J.J. Moore, his 18 points highlighted the blue's night. Moore also made headlines by winning the slam dunk contest held after the game. It was the 2nd straight year Moore took top honors in the event.
"I wanted to do more but they only gave me a few chances,' said Moore of the dunk contest.
As for how they played in the scrimmage, Moore was honest saying "I think we played well, but the young guys, all of us have a lot to do and get better before the season starts."
Moore also addressed the sloppy play to begin the game as a matter of working through the growing pains to begin a season.
"It was a little sloppy with the freshmen out there, but they got used to it," Moore said. "We picked it up and played hard. As the game went on, we got better."
As far as his role for the upcoming season, Moore knows that team performance will mean more than scoring points.
"Points are good, but this is about a team sport," Moore said. "I want to contribute and get wins. Today was all fun and games though and that was fun."
Another key storyline to the scrimmage was the six freshman that made their Panthers debut, including much talked about freshman Khem Birch who scored eight points and blocked three shots.
Birch is expected to compete for playing time while Nasir Robinson battles injuries. As for how much playing time?
"To be honest with you, I have no idea,' said Birch about where he will play. "I will see what happens. Maybe if I'm doing well and he comes back, I will play another position. I'm not sure where I will play."
The freshman from Montreal's three blocks were part of the excitement of Saturday's scrimmage, as Birch was expected to provide the Panthers with a defensive presence under the boards. It's not all that his game has to offer.
"They want me to work on taking charges,' quipped Birch. "(Dixon) wants me to work on that. I'm just a freshman and adjusting to the physicality of the game is hard for me."