Pitt Vs. South Florida: Panthers Defeat Bulls, 67-55

With Ashton Gibbs missing Wednesday's game, Brad Wanamaker will again need to step up.

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Pitt Vs. South Florida: Panthers Take Care Of Business

An apathetic Pitt team got more than it bargained for Wednesday – far more.

Big favorites heading into the game, Pitt failed to take control until late in the second half. In the end, though, the Panthers walked away with a 67-55 win.

Games like these happen and Pitt fans shouldn’t take too much away from it. Pitt was playing a bad team at home in front of a crowd that struggled to get into the game. Getting a win, regardless of how the team looked, was the most important thing.

Pitt held a 13-point lead late in the first half, but South Florida refused to give up, and kept the game close until about ten minutes left in the game. Unfortunately for the Bulls, it was an all too familiar scene. Up only one, Pitt went on an 18-3 run. Those three points came over the next nine minutes as South Florida’s offense was virtually shut down for the last ten minutes of the game.

The Panthers looked really sluggish to me. The energy wasn’t there offensively or defensively until late in the second half when they made that big run.

Four players got into double figures including Talib Zanna, who hasn’t contributed much since his two big games at Madison Square Garden earlier this season. The Panthhers also dominated on the glass (35-17) and only gave up two offensive rebounds all night.

I’m a little torn on USF – looking at several of their close losses this season, they’ve not played all that poorly. They just haven’t been able to close out a lot of games. Ken over at SB Nation’s South Florida blog, Voodoo Five, disagreed in our Q&A earlier this week, dismissing the Bulls as a team that’s not very good.

With Ashton Gibbs expected back on Saturday, Pitt passed a major test. They didn’t look great all the time and the offense struggled a bit, but the Panthers proved they can find ways to win even when they’re not shooting well. Gibbs’ return will hopefully mean the team gets back on track shooting three-pointers. He draws a lot of attention when he’s on the court and that creates a lot of open looks for other players.

Pitt goes back on the road to face St. John’s at Madison Square Garden.

For more post-game analysis, stop by SB Nation Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill.

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Pitt Vs. South Florida: Panthers Look To Keep Rolling Against Bulls

Let's face it - it's hard to get excited for this game as a fan. Sure, Pitt could lose (no, really), but looking past that fact, there's not a whole lot of intrigue or story behind this one.

Still, it's Pitt basketball, so that should get you excited at least a little.

For starters, it looks like Ashton Gibbs won't be returning just yet:

Pittsburgh junior guard Ashton Gibbs is physically fit enough to play Wednesday against South Florida, but is planning to return Saturday against St. John’s at Madison Square Garden instead.

"I’ll be back Saturday," he said Tuesday.

Gibbs is getting closer, though:

Gibbs practiced with the team on Monday, in what was mostly a recovery day for the team. Pitt took a bus to Saturday’s game at Villanova, and returned to Pittsburgh just before 6 am on Sunday morning. Monday’s practice consisted of some shooting. Though Gibbs practiced, he was held out of contact drills.

"Ashton played, felt good," Dixon added. "It wasn’t with contact.  

It makes perfect sense that he would be held out. Pitt should still be able to win this game, but even if the Panthers were playing a more difficult opponent, there's no reason Gibbs should play unless he's absolutely 100 percent.

And about that opponent.

South Florida is one of the league's worst teams. At 8-18 overall, they've also only won two conference games, defeating Providence and DePaul. There have been times when the Bulls have been competitive, though. The Bulls lost by one to Marquette a week ago and also to Providence and UConn by five points each. Add in another five-point loss to James Madison, a two-point double-overtime loss to BYU, and a six-point loss to Central Florida and it's easy to see that South Florida could be much closer to a .500 team.

The Bulls were also a 20-win team last year and many players were around for the team's 70-61 upset win over Pitt last season. South Florida then went out and beat 10th-ranked Georgetown on the road, so they've got experience in winning big road games.

Still, unless things go horribly wrong, Pitt should be able to win this game fairly easily. This year's Bulls team is worlds apart from last year's team and Pitt is better than they were last season.

Gibbs or no Gibbs, Pitt should come away with a victory.

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