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Thread: Gibbs leads Pitt to spot in Top 10

      
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    Default Gibbs leads Pitt to spot in Top 10

    Gibbs leads Pitt to spot in Top 10
    1/19/2010
    By Alan Robinson
    Associated Press

    PITTSBURGH - Some players find their shooting stroke on a playground, others during endless hours in the school gym.

    Ashton Gibbs traveled 8,500 miles from Pittsburgh to New Zealand to locate his.

    Gibbs is one of college basketball's most improved players on one of its most surprising teams. A key reason why is the extra time he put in last summer playing for Panthers coach Jamie Dixon's United States under-19 team.

    Gibbs, not one of the more heralded players, averaged 9.8 points and a team-high 22.4 minutes for the United States' first world championship team in that tournament since 1991. Playing on a balanced team, he scored 13 points during an 88-80 victory over Greece in the gold-medal game.

    Before the tournament began, Dixon told Gibbs he needed to upgrade his defense, and he did. While putting so much emphasis on becoming a better defender, the 6-2 Gibbs didn't worry as much about his shooting, and his shots began falling.

    "It was big on a confidence level," said Gibbs, who is averaging 17.5 points and is one of the nation's leading free throw shooters. "If I can play against some of the best players in the international level, all over the world, I can play against some of the best players in the country."

    He's doing exactly that for Pitt (5-0 Big East, 15-2 overall), which jumped to No. 9 in the Associated Press poll Monday after not being ranked until two weeks ago. The Panthers lost NBA draft picks DeJuan Blair and Sam Young plus two other starters off their 31-5 team of last season and, with no big-name players to take their place, this was expected to be Dixon's first rebuilding season since he was hired in 2003.

    It hasn't been.

    Pitt beat No. 5 Syracuse and once-ranked Connecticut and Cincinnati during a difficult three-game road trip, then came back from five points down in the final minute to beat Louisville 82-77 in overtime on Saturday. The Panthers are at home against No. 13 Georgetown on Wednesday as they try to start 6-0 in the Big East for the first time.

    Instead of wondering if they would reach the NCAA tournament for a ninth consecutive season, the Panthers are a few more wins away from a possible high seeding - thanks greatly to Gibbs' emergence as one of the Big East's top players.

    A role player and backup to three-year starting point guard Levance Fields, Gibbs averaged 4.3 points as a freshman last season. This season, Gibbs scored 20 or more points in two of Pitt's first three games and has been their top offensive player since. He's jumped his scoring average by 13.2 points per game, and has been in double figures all but twice. He already has six games of 20 points or more.

    "He takes to coaching," Dixon said. "He wasn't a good defender, and he made himself into a good defender. He wasn't a good rebounder, and he's made himself into a good rebounder."

    Fields ran the backcourt on Pitt teams that won 87 games the last three seasons, yet Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said the Panthers are more dangerous offensively with Gibbs at the point. He had 24 points and eight rebounds during an 82-72 victory at Syracuse on Jan. 2, the Orange's only loss.

    "Gibbs is as good as any player in the conference in the backcourt," Boeheim said. "I think Fields is a really good player, but I'd rather play against him than Gibbs because Gibbs can make six 3s against you. Gibbs is an improvement, a big improvement."

    Gibbs is shooting 43.3 percent from 3-point range and is No. 4 nationally in free throw percentage at 93.1 percent (67 of 72).

    "He takes advantage of every opening," former DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said after Gibbs scored 23 points during a 65-52 decision over the Blue Demons on Dec. 28. "Any time we left him open, he made us pay. He seemed to make every big shot."

    http://www.observer-reporter.com/or/...s-G-01-18-0800
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    Default Re: Gibbs leads Pitt to spot in Top 10

    He has been a very pleasant surprise on both sides of the court. You really don't know what to expect from a freshman to sophomore season with limited court experience.

    Kudos to him for all the off-season work.

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    Default Re: Gibbs leads Pitt to spot in Top 10

    Quote Originally Posted by ihateusernames View Post
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member. Show Quote
    He has been a very pleasant surprise on both sides of the court. You really don't know what to expect from a freshman to sophomore season with limited court experience.

    Kudos to him for all the off-season work.
    Agreed... Personally, I think the entire team has been a pleasant suprise up until now. No one expected them to do well with losing as many starters as they did after last season. They have battled, and fought their way back into the top ten... Of course, all of this is just for a seed in post-season play... Then it becomes much more important... But I really like what I've seen so far.
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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