Pittsburgh (5-1), which lost to No. 3 Texas late Tuesday night in Kansas City for the first early loss in 38 games, couldn't bury the Penguins (3-3) until the final 10 minutes. YSU, which begins Horizon League play this week, forged a 42-42 tie with 12:26 remaining. But that's when sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs and the Panthers got hot.
Gibbs, who was 0-for-2 in the first half and missed nine shots overall, nailed two 3-pointers and scored eight of his 14 points during a 10-0 run midway through the second half to help Pitt pull away. The Panthers had A 34-28 halftime advantage and actually led by as many as 11 midway through the first half.
"They closed out on me well, and I had a couple bad turnovers and poor decisions,'' Gibbs said. "So, they did a great job defensively, and I give all the credit to them. ... Their bottom defenders did a great job, and they also did a great job trying to stop me from getting past them.
"(So), I was just taking what the defense gave me, and my teammates also did a great job finding me. So, that's what I'm going to try to do as we move forward, and that's what Coach Dixon is looking for. So, if I get an open shot, I'm going to do my best to knock it down.''
Junior guard Bradley Wanamaker also scored 14 points, while junior center Gary McGhee and sophomore forward Nasir Robinson each tallied a double-double. McGhee had 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Robinson had 10 and 10 for Pitt, which outscored Youngstown State 30-14 in the final 12 minutes.
"I thought Brad played his best game of the year,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "That was good to see, and Gary continued to get better and improve. So, there were a lot of good things, but there also were other things that we still need to improve on this season. But that's where you should be on Nov. 28.
"(And) I really expect this to be a balanced scoring team, once we get everyone healthy and get our minutes evenly distributed. (But) I also was happy to see some rebounding from Brad. He should be a better rebounder, so, that was nice and ... we got good production from our front line.''
Pitt led 38-22 in rebounds and limited the Penguins to eight in the first half, as McGhee tallied a second straight double-double for the first time in his career. His initial game with double figures in scoring and rebounding was for 11 points and 10 rebounds against Texas.
"The last few games, Coach Dixon has been telling us that we need to out-rebound teams by plus-15 on the glass,'' McGhee said. "So, today we went out and were very aggressive on the offensive and defensive glass. That's one of our key things that we need to do to win games, and we went out and did that.
"Me and Nas really play good together, and we look for each other and help each other out on both the offensive and defensive ends. We can box out and get rebounds, and we just help each other out. That's what happened against Youngstown, and we were both able to get a double-double.''
The Penguins were led by Kelvin Bright's 20 points and DeAndre Mays' 16, which keyed a comeback from a 26-15 deficit in the first half and 40-33 disadvantage early in the second half before rallying to tie the score.
Gibbs' 15-foot jumper with 11:52 remaining put the Panthers up for good at 44-42, and McGhee scored inside. Gibbs, Pitt's best outside shooter but closely guarded most of the game, followed with consecutive 3-pointers in less than a minute to make it 52-42. Gibbs missed his other five attempts from 3-point range and was 4-for-13 overall.
YSU's shooting fell off in the second half, as it shot 33 percent (9-for-27) from the field after going 12-for-24 (50 percent) in the first half.
"We got a couple stops, and we got a couple offensive rebounds,'' Wanamaker said. "We were able to get a couple lay-ups, too, and that helped us take control of the game. (But) I don't think that we play with enough pride yet in playing D, yet. Once we get that down, we should win these games more easily.''
Pitt is 6-1 all-time against Youngstown State with its only loss occurring in 1976. The Penguins also lost to Xavier 83-57 and Kent State 70-61 this year.
The Panthers played their sixth consecutive game without guard Jermaine Dixon (broken right foot), their only returning starter. He could return within the next week, but isn't likely to play against Duquesne in the annual City Game Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Mellon Arena.
Pitt 72, Youngstown State 56
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