Ashton Gibbs scored 21 points as Pittsburgh’s balance overcame Kemba Walker’s one-man offense for No. 4 Connecticut, and the No. 6 Panthers easily won at home last night in the Big East’s first matchup of Top 10 teams, 78-63.
Walker scored 31 points, but missed 17 of 27 shots as Pittsburgh repeatedly limited the Huskies to a single shot in a possession — often a bad one. The Huskies made just 19 of 60 shots (31.7 percent), and had only two scorers with more than 5 points until the closing minutes in the conference opener.
Brad Wanamaker, who took turns with Gibbs shadowing one of the nation’s leading scorers, added 14 points as Pittsburgh (13-1) beat Connecticut (10-1) for the fourth straight time.
Gary McGhee had 11 points and 11 rebounds and Nasir Robinson helped out with 11 points and 10 rebounds for Pitt, which shot 52.1 percent.
Pitt’s experience made a difference as only three players in UConn’s rotation had played before at the Petersen Events Center, where the Panthers are 8-0 against Top 5 teams and 142-11 overall.
The Huskies also played their first true road game, and it showed. They had trouble solving Pitt’s man-to-man defense, which repeatedly forced them into taking hurried or low-percentage shots as the shot clock wound down.
The Huskies fell behind by 10 in the first half, trailed by as many as 15, and never made a determined run despite Walker’s wide variety of baskets, nearly all of them heavily defended.
Walker, most effective when driving the lane against Pitt’s taller but slower defenders, scored at least 20 points for the 10th consecutive game and 30 or more for the fifth time. But the Huskies had no other player in double figures as Walker made more than half (10) of their 19 baskets.
Pitt, wearing gold uniforms and cheered on by a standing-room crowd of 12,725 that was urged to also wear the color, surged to early leads of 8-2 and 16-7 and never led by fewer than 6 points the rest of the first half.
Coach Jamie Dixon kept rotating defenders against Walker, who missed nine of his first 12 shots — 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
The Panthers took their first 10-point lead at 24-14 when McGhee followed up Robinson’s missed free throw.
Pitt came in outrebounding its opponents by an average of 16 per game, only to have UConn hold a 36-33 advantage. It made no difference as UConn missed 23 of its first 33 shots, including 9 of 11 from 3-point range.
Connecticut, unranked before the season began before surging into the Top 10 after beating Michigan State and Kentucky, has lost five of its last six conference openers.
Ohio St. 100, Tenn.-Martin 40 — William Buford scored the first 7 points of the game and came out of an offensive funk to finish with 23 to lead the No. 2 Buckeyes over the visiting Skyhawks.
Deshaun Thomas added 20 points, Jared Sullinger had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale scored 10 points apiece for Ohio State (13-0), one of eight remaining Division 1 unbeatens. They are off to the fourth-best start in the program’s 112 seasons.
It was the ninth-biggest victory margin in Ohio State history.
Missouri 97, Northern Illinois 61 — Marcus Denmon scored 24 points to lead the hot-shooting No. 9 Tigers over the visiting Huskies.
Matt Pressey added a career-high 18 points for Missouri (12-1), which scored the first 17 points of the game and held the largest halftime lead against a Division 1 opponent in school history at 40 points. The Tigers connected on 69 percent of their shots in the opening frame and scored a season-best 57 points.
It was the 100th win for coach Mike Anderson, who became the fastest coach in program history to reach that mark, needing just 147 games.
Xavier Silas, who came in as the nation’s second-leading scorer at 26.2 points per game, finished with just 8 points for the Huskies (3-7).
Louisville 104, Morgan St. 74 — Preston Knowles scored a career-high 31 points as the No. 22 Cardinals routed the visiting Bears in their final tuneup before a showdown with rival Kentucky.
Kyle Kuric added 25 points and Louisville (11-1) had little trouble with the Bears (4-5). Louisville shot 59 percent from the field and forced 26 turnovers to easily win its third straight. The Cardinals made 17 of 23 3-pointers (74 percent) while topping the 100-point barrier for the third time this season.