Brown stars in First Round win
Unlike some of their Big East rivals, the No. 3 Pittsburgh Panthers took care of business in their first round matchup with No. 14 Oakland.
The Panthers shook off a slow start to rout No. 14 seed Oakland 89-66 in the West Regional.
Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown led the Panthers with 17 points each, as the Panthers had a total of six Panthers players who scored in double figures.
I liked the balanced scoring,” head coach Jamie Dixon said. “Once we were able to get going, we could find some guys for open shots, and things started rolling.”
A key to Pitt’s victory was a strong performance off the bench from Gilbert Brown.
The Panthers are making their ninth straight NCAA appearance and have advanced to the Sweet 16 in five of the previous eight seasons and consistency from Brown could tell the story if Pitt is to advance to their 6th Sweet 16 appearance in 9 seasons.
Pitt will try to continue that streak Sunday against No. 6 seed Xavier, which defeated 11th seed Minnesota 65-54 earlier Friday.
The Panthers went into their first round game against Oakland with their mind only on what they had to do, not what Big East rivals Marquette, Georgetown and Notre Dame did.
“We watched the games,” Pitt guard Jermaine Dixon said. “We are student-athletes. We like watching basketball. Yeah, the Big East lost some games, but that’s not our main concern. We worry about what we have to do, and we worry about Oakland more than anything, taking it one game at a time. The Big East took some hits, but we’re just going to go out there and do what we have to do.”
Pitt had a strong inside game, scoring 48 points in the paint as the Panthers overwhelmed the Golden Grizzlies inside. Forward Nasir Robinson scored 13 points and center Gary McGhee added 12 points for the Panthers who shot 53% from the field.
Brown and Travon Woodall combined for 29 points off the bench.
As he’s been all season, Brown is Pitt’s wildcard in the NCAA tournament, including Sunday’s matchup against Xavier. When he plays up to his ability, Pitt is a dangerous team.
Xavier a matchup problem for Pitt?
The Pitt season has already been a major success but expectations change and it’s Sweet 16 or bust for the Panthers.
Xavier poses three problems for Pitt
1. Xavier shot over 37 percent as a team from behind the arc this season, averaging more than seven 3s per game.
2. Xavier is bigger and more athletic inside than Pitt and they have the size and quickness to match up with almost anyone in the country man-to-man.
3. Rebounding — Xavier doesn’t give many team second chances due to their group of big bodies.