Pittsburgh used a terrific game plan against the nation's top scorer to win its Big East opener. It will probably use a similar approach in a matchup with the second-leading scorer in the conference.
The No. 5 Panthers will play on the road for the first time Tuesday night as they face Marshon Brooks and Providence.Pittsburgh (13-1, 1-0) has had more than a week off since a convincing 78-63 home win over then-No. 4 Connecticut on Dec. 27. That victory came thanks to the Panthers' commitment to defending Huskies star Kemba Walker, averaging 26.7 points.Walker scored 31 but went 10 of 27 from the field. The rest of the Huskies shot 27.3 percent."He had 31 points, but the fact that they came on 27 shots speaks for itself," coach Jamie Dixon said. "Shooting percentage is key in defending him as obviously he's a very big part of what they do on offense. One of our goals also was to keep him off of the free-throw line, which we did pretty effectively, especially in the first half."After battling the 6-foot-1 Walker, the Panthers now set their sights on slowing down the 6-5 Brooks, averaging 23.1 points. Brooks is one of the nation's most improved players, increasing his scoring average from 14.2 in 2009-10 and posting the first six double-doubles of his career.Providence (11-4, 0-2) will try to fare better against Pitt star Ashton Gibbs than it did in a 73-71 road loss March 4. Gibbs had 25 points and made the winning shot from several strides inside the midcourt line at the buzzer.The Panthers have won nine of their last 10 meetings with the Friars, but the lone loss was memorable. Pitt was ranked No. 1 when it fell 81-73 in its last visit to the Dunkin' Donuts Center on Feb. 24, 2009, with the Friars recording their second-ever victory over a top-ranked team.Gibbs struggled on the road in Big East play last season, averaging 14.7 points on 35.5 percent shooting.Conversely, he has averaged 17.5 points on 44.9 percent from the floor in his last 10 home conference games. He finished with 21 points, seven assists and one turnover against UConn."Yeah, I got some wide-open looks, but I credit that to my teammates, they were screening and coach was stressing that to us this week and in this game I got the ball and it worked out for my benefit," Gibbs said.Pitt went 5-4 in Big East road games last season.Providence had its 10-game home winning streak snapped with a 67-65 loss to St. John's on Saturday. Brooks scored 20 points for his lowest total in eight games for the Friars, losers of six straight Big East home contests.The Panthers allowed Walker to shoot 11 free throws last week, and will try to keep Brooks and Vincent Council off the line Tuesday. Both are among the Big East leaders in foul shots, with Council averaging 6.0 attempts and Brooks 5.7.