Ashton Gibbs came up big to earn Pittsburgh a double-bye in next week’s Big East tournament. Now, he might be in position to help his team claim the second seed.
Gibbs looks for another strong performance when the No. 17 Panthers try to continue their home dominance Saturday as they face Rutgers.
Pittsburgh (23-7, 12-5) avoided a big scare Thursday when Gibbs connected on a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to clinch a 73-71 win over Providence.
“I’m always going to be confident with my shot,” said Gibbs, who had 25 points Thursday and leads the Panthers with 16.3 per game. “I just wanted to keep it (and take the shot). I’ve been in enough pressure-packed games to keep my composure in any type situation.”
The sophomore guard’s clutch shot secured Pitt a bye into the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, which starts Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. However, the Panthers will know if they have a chance at the second seed before taking the court Saturday.
They’re tied with 10th-ranked West Virginia for third in the Big East, one game back of No. 9 Villanova for second. If the Mountaineers beat the Wildcats earlier Saturday and then Pitt wins, that would leave the three teams tied in the standings, but the Panthers own the tiebreaker.
“I haven’t thought about that,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “I’m thinking about Rutgers.”
Pittsburgh has won nine of 10 against the Scarlet Knights (15-15, 5-12), including a 78-72 victory at Rutgers on Dec. 31, 2008, in the most recent meeting. However, the Panthers dropped the last matchup in Pittsburgh, 77-64 on Jan. 26, 2008, halting their seven-game home winning streak in the series.
Pitt, though, has won 37 of its last 38 at home, losing only to then-No. 12 Georgetown 74-66 on Jan. 20. The Panthers have since won six in a row there while outscoring opponents by an average of nearly 12 per game, beating West Virginia and Villanova along the way.
Gibbs is averaging 22.5 points in the last four games at Petersen Events Center.
Rutgers, 1-8 on the road, is looking to avoid entering the conference tournament with its fourth loss in five games. In Thursday’s 85-74 defeat to Seton Hall, the Scarlet Knights were outrebounded 56-28 and shot 36.1 percent from the floor after hitting 52.1 percent in a 71-62 win over DePaul last Saturday.
Mike Rosario is looking to rebound from a rough effort. The sophomore guard made 4 of 16 shots for 17 points Thursday after hitting 8 of 13 for 24 points against the Blue Demons.
Rosario had 22 points against the then-No. 3 Panthers last season.
The Scarlet Knights snapped a 16-game losing streak against Top 25 opposition on Feb. 14, stunning then-No. 7 Georgetown 71-68 behind a career-high 24 points from Jonathan Mitchell.
The junior forward, who transfered from Florida before this season, is second on the team with 11.8 points per game. He is coming off a 13-point performance on 4-for-14 shooting Thursday and grabbed 13 rebounds.