No. 8 Pittsburgh 97, Md.-Eastern Shore 64
Pitt knows Gilbert Brown is capable of games like this. What the Panthers would love to see is Brown having them on a consistent basis, not just once a month.
Brown missed only two shots while scoring a career-high 28 points and No. 8 Pittsburgh took off following a slow start to beat Maryland-Eastern Shore 97-64 on Saturday night.
Ashton Gibbs added 15 points and seven assists, and Gary McGhee had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Pitt (11-1). Hillary Haley scored 17 for the Hawks (2-8), who have lost their last four by an average of 30 points.
Pitt quickly opened a 9-2 lead, but Maryland-Eastern Shore came back to make it 26-22 with 6:48 remaining in the first half. Brown, coming off a 15-point game in a loss to Tennessee, then scored 10 points in less than three minutes to key a 21-5 run that made it 47-27.
Brown, a 6-foot-6 senior who has been a streaky scorer throughout his career, made 11 of 13 shots - 4 of 5 from 3-point range - and both of his free throws while topping his previous career high of 25 points against South Florida on Jan. 31.
''I still ain't figured it out,'' Brown said. ''But I've felt good all week shooting the ball. My mindset has been no hesitation - just go out and play basketball and be aggressive. ... Sometimes I feel like we're holding back and don't play to our talents.''
Brown had 19 points by halftime, then made a pair of baskets as Pitt went on an 11-2 run early in the second half. He had 28 with nearly 13 minutes remaining, but spent much of the rest of the game on the bench and took only one more shot.
''I looked up and saw he had 24, and I said, `Oh, he's scoring a lot tonight,''' McGhee said. ''It's good to see him come out and be aggressive.''
Last season, Brown scored 19 or more points four times, then followed each of those games by scoring in single digits the next. Brown followed up the South Florida game by going scoreless against West Virginia.
''I know people, any time he doesn't follow up one with another one, jump on him and focus on the negative. It's hard to have big numbers every single game,'' coach Jamie Dixon said. ''He's gotten better and better as the year has gone along. I like where he's going right now.''
To Dixon, what Brown needs to do to be a consistently big scorer - he's averaging 10.9 - is to get to the foul line more times and take the ball to the basket more, rather than relying on scoring primarily from the perimeter.
Travon Woodall came off the bench for 11 points and nine assists as 11 players scored for Pitt.
Pitt played for the first time since its 83-76 loss to No. 7 Tennessee on Dec. 11 that wasn't as close as the score indicated. The Panthers, not as quick and athletic as the Volunteers, trailed by as many as 21 points in the second half.
That game, played at the downtown Consol Energy Center rather than Pitt's campus arena, suggested the Panthers might want to schedule tougher non-conference opponents before Big East play begins. Tennessee will be the only ranked opponent Pitt plays before meeting No. 4 Connecticut on Dec. 27. Pitt has one more game before that, against American on Wednesday.
''Pitt's too much for us,'' Hawks coach Frankie Allen said. ''That's a team that's going to go a long way. ... When Brown is making shots like that, it opens up a lot of things for them.''
Dixon contends the Panthers' history of losing to lower-seeded teams in the NCAA tournament has nothing to do with their early season schedule.
The Panthers probably didn't get much out of playing the Hawks, who have lost their last 10 games against ranked opponents by an average of 36.3 points. Pitt outrebounded the Hawks 53-26 after coming in averaging 15.1 rebounds more per game than their opponents.
Pitt is 19-0 against Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schools and has won its last 55 games against non-conference opponents at the Petersen Events Center. The Panthers have won each of their last seven home games by at least 19 points.