TAMPA, Fla. —
South Florida’s Hugh Robertson combined a perfect night offensively with a stellar defensive performance that helped the Bulls rebound from their worst-ever Big East loss.
Robertson had a season-high 18 points and helped USF (14-10, 7-4) hold Pittsburgh star Ashton Gibbs to a season-low four points in a 63-51 victory over the Panthers last night. Augustus Gilchrist added 10 points for the Bulls, who lost by 30 points at Georgetown last weekend.
“Pitt’s been on a roll, winning four games straight. Playing great coming into this game,” Gilchrist said. “So we knew we had to bring our ‘A’ game.”
The Bulls limited Pitt (15-10, 4-8) to 35-percent shooting, with the Panthers’ high-scoring backcourt of Gibbs and Tray Woodall going a combined 6 of 22 from the field.
The loss ended the winning streak Pitt had put together following an 0-7 start in conference play. Woodall led the Panthers with 11 points, but made just 4 of 13 shots. Gibbs missed his first four shots and finished 2 of 9, with Robertson spearheading the effort to shut him down.
“It wasn’t just me, it was a team effort,” Robertson said. “I just tried staying with him, just take him out of the game.”
Gibbs averaged nearly 19 points during Pitt’s winning streak and entered the night with a 16.6 average overall. He was held below double figures for the just the third time this season.
“I think they frustrated all of us,” Woodall said. “It’s a team game; it wasn’t just one guy they frustrated. (Gibbs) just didn’t hit some shots, and they did a good job of crowding him and making him take tougher shots. He just didn’t get any great looks.”
Gibbs was 0-for-4 in the opening half and remained scoreless until finally making a jumper five minutes into the second half.
“We’re extremely disappointed because we haven’t been playing like this,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
Pitt shot less than 35 percent in the first half and turned the ball over nine times, yet only trailed 27-23 at halftime. Unfortunately for the Panthers, it didn’t get any better the rest of the way.
Toarlyn Fitzpatrick’s 3-pointer put USF up 41-31 with 14 minutes to go. Pitt cut its deficit to eight on two occasions, but each time the Bulls answered with a basket to stay in control. When Robertson, Fitzpatrick and Collins scored during a quick 6-0 burst, the lead grew to 14 with 8 minutes to go.
Pitt kept battling, but never got into a rhythm offensively. Lamar Patterson’s 3-pointer trimmed USF’s lead to 53-45 with 2:41 remaining, however, the Panthers didn’t get closer than eight down the stretch.
Woodall’s return from an abdominal injury ignited Pitt’s winning streak. But, against USF, the Panthers point guard was 1-for-6 from 3-point range and finished with just two assists.
“I’ve got to do a better job of getting guys easier shots, get us back in our offense,” Woodall said. “I take full responsibility. As a point guard, I’m supposed to lead my team and get us better looks than we did.”
J.J. Moore had nine points for Pitt. Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna added eight apiece.
USF’s 75-45 loss to Georgetown was the Bulls’ worst conference loss since entering the Big East in 2005. After shooting a season-low 31 percent in the debacle, USF warmed up to 61 percent against Pitt.
Robertson was the catalyst, but Bulls coach Stan Heath said the real star was the team’s defense.
“I’d like to bottle that and take that everywhere we go the rest of the year,” Heath said. “Every time it seemed like they were getting ready to make a run, we executed and did a nice job making some plays on the offense end.”