Senior Night, like their senior season, was something of a disaster for Pitt guard Ashton Gibbs and forward Nassir Robinson, as South Florida handed the Panthers their fourth consecutive loss and 11th against four victories in Big East play as of Feb. 19.
Now, they seem to be headed for the NIT after having played three straight years in the NCAA tournament.
Gibbs, the 10th leading scorer in Pitt history and a man who could finish as high as eighth, preferred to look at Senior Night as a celebration of his four years, not just his senior year.
As a freshman, Gibbs was taken in by Sam Young.
"I was a big Sam Young fan," he said. "No one really knows how much of a Sam Young fan I was. I never said it. He said, 'People who work hard will succeed, and the ones who don't will fall short.' That always stuck in my head. I'm a big fan of quotes. When I heard that, it's always something that stuck with me. It was my motivation for the final three years here."
Gibbs will go down as one of the top shooters to ever wear a Pitt uniform. He set school records for most 3-pointers made and attempted. His 49-percent shooting mark from 3-point range is the second-best mark in school history for a single season.
"It means a lot," Gibbs said of his individual accolades. "Being at Pitt with a big-time tradition here and a lot of great players, it shows a lot about my work ethic. I think I earned it. Coming in my freshman year, I wasn't thinking about starting or being an All-Big East player. It's definitely something I worked for. Through time, I kept getting better and better, and it showed on the court."
His Senior Night, however, summed up his senior season, as South Florida held him to 1-for-7 from the field and just two points.
--Pitt celebrated its Senior Day on Feb. 19, and despite a dismal season, there was a lot to celebrate for G Ashton Gibbs and F Nasir Robinson, both having helped the Panthers reach three NCAA tournaments, playing on two teams that were No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, winning 25 games or more in three consecutive seasons and going 10-1 against teams ranked in the top 10, including winning all eight such games at home.
--When Pitt was beaten by West Virginia, it marked the Mountaineers' first victory in Pittsburgh since 2005 and assured that the Panthers would have a losing record in the Big East for the first time since 2000-01.
BY THE NUMBERS : 5 -- The number of games this year that senior G Ashton Gibbs has been held to single digits, with three of them coming in the last four games. Against WVU he was 2-of-11 from the field and 0-for-5 from 3-point range, and he followed that with a 1-for-7 showing from the field against South Florida.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like everything happens for a reason. There's definitely a purpose for a season like this. It's something we have to live with, and we have to keep moving forward. We have to use it as motivation." -- Senior G Ashton Gibbs on suffering through a difficult senior year.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Louisville, Feb. 26 -- The way things have gone for Pitt lately, the Panthers will welcome some time off. But going to Louisville to face a hungry Cardinals team that is trying to hone itself for the Big East tournament is a tough way to come back. Louisville is a typical Rick Pitino team that pushes the action, running when it has a chance, pressing and shooting 3s. It also has big man inside in Gorgui Dieng, who averages 9.2 rebounds a game and has 90 blocks to lead the conference by a wide margin. The pressing defense is led by Russ Smith, second in the Big East in steals.
FUTURES MARKET: Freshmen Gs John Johnson and Cameron Wright got more experience than they planned, or hoped for, this year as an injury to Tray Woodall forced them into the rotation. They played well for a while but slipped as time went on. Johnson and Wright arguably played their best games Jan. 16 at Syracuse. Johnson was 3-for-4 from the field and scored nine points, and Wright was 4-for-6 for 10 points. Woodall returned the next game, and their minutes were cut dramatically.
Still, they are working toward the future and senior F Nasir Robinson is helping them along, recalling for the Post-Gazette how he had to struggle as a freshman to find playing time. "I just tell them to keep working," Robinson said. "I know how they feel. I've been through that as a freshman. I just tell them to keep working and not give up. There will be times when you come in and play two minutes, or 30 seconds or whatever. Whenever your name is called, be ready to go.
"It's tough. The transition from high school when you're always playing and then you get here and feel like you're doing everything right and then you don't. You just have to keep fighting every day."
--Senior G Ashton Gibbs passed G Karl Krauser and became the No. 10 all-time leading scorer for Panthers. Gibbs has 1,650 points.
--Since making 13 consecutive shots against Georgetown and West Virginia, senior F Nasir Robinson had hit only 13-of-37 in five games.