Pitt's size, perimeter shooting too much for tiny UNC-Asheville

March 17, 2011|By Jeff Barker | The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON — Before his team's second-round game, UNC-Asheville guard Matt Dickey said it is not often that such a small school gets to be "on TV and SportsCenter and stuff."

It initially got better for Dickey on Thursday as his 16th seeded Bulldogs hung with No. 1 Pittsburgh until midway through the second half. But then reality – in the form of Pitt's larger size and too much Ashton Gibbs – set in and the Panthers prevailed, 74-51.

Pitt (28-5) will now face Butler on Saturday in an NCAA tournament third-round game at Verizon Center.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon called Butler "as physical a team as we'll play all year -- probably the most physical team."

The Panthers were led by Gibbs, the junior guard and All-Big East first-team performer. Gibbs scored 26 points, including six 3-pointers, as UNC-Asheville struggled to defend Pitt's larger inside players as well as the perimeter. Twenty of Gibbs' points came after halftime.

It was a familiar tournament story: a 16-seed stays close but is worn down by a top seed's size and depth. A No. 16 seed has never defeated a No. 1 in the men's tournament.

"We had a rebounding differential of 50-27," UNC-Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach said. "Although it's a physical game, you can't lose the rebounding differential that much and stay in the game."

UNC-Asheville was running on adrenaline. The Bulldogs (20-14) topped Arkansas-Little Rock 81-77 in overtime on Tuesday before taking a chartered plane late that night to the nation's capital.

"Adrenaline can get you through a game," Dickey said. "We went into halftime down five. That's where we wanted to be."

Pitt, dominating early on the boards, led by as many as 12 in the first half. But the Bulldogs, applying full-court pressure, chipped into the lead.

Dickey was fouled making a 3-pointer, and his free throw made it 23-15. Dickey's bank shot trimmed Pitt's advantage to 30-25 at the half. Dickey finished with 21 points.

Dickey's two free throws made it 32-29 early in the second half.

But then Gibbs hit a 3-pointer and followed it with a drive to up the lead to 37-29.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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