PITTSBURGH -- Jamie Dixon usually does most of the talking in Pitt's locker room following a game. This time, his players did.
It was a special occasion, even if the coach of the sixth-ranked Panthers didn't necessarily agree.Brad Wanamaker scored 19 points and led a first-half surge in which Pittsburgh held American to a lone basket for 10 minutes, and the Panthers won 61-46 on Wednesday night for their 200th victory under Dixon.Dixon, in his eighth season, reached the mark in his 255th game, faster than all but 11 other coaches in NCAA history. Clair Bee of Rider and Long Island accomplished it in a record 231 games during the 1930s.Pitt's seniors -- Wanamaker, Gary McGhee and Gilbert Brown -- spoke to their younger teammates of their respect for Dixon, and they presented him with the game ball."It wasn't something I spent all night thinking about going into it," Dixon said of No. 200. "It was very thoughtful of the players ... that's probably what means the most to me. They talked about the hard work and dedication but, of course, I corrected them and told them it was good players that was most important."Only Mark Few of Gonzaga and Roy Williams of Kansas also made it to 200 victories in their eighth season -- reflecting, in part, the number of games schools now play. Pitt has won fewer than 25 games only once since Dixon replaced Ben Howland as coach in 2003."We're going to stick with the formula, and that's good players," Dixon said. "Anyone that's relying on coaching is not going to be successful."American coach Jeff Jones doesn't necessarily agree."Look at the consistency -- that says a lot about the job he's done," Jones said. "It's not as if Pitt has the tradition of a Kansas or a Duke, but the last 8-9 seasons, they're right there."Brown, coming off a 28-point game against Maryland-Eastern Shore, added 15 points as the Panthers wrapped up their nonconference schedule -- and in a game that was much closer than they probably expected.The Panthers, who came in averaging 82.3 points per game, had been held to fewer than 70 points only once, a 68-66 victory over Texas at Madison Square Garden. They were held to 40 percent shooting, 22 of 55, but overcame that with a 41-24 advantage in rebounding."We couldn't hang with them on the boards," Jones said. "They do a lot of things well, but that's the one thing that jumps out at you."Vlad Moldoveanu scored 23 points for American (7-5), which played its second ranked opponent this season. The Eagles lost to then-No. 18 Florida 67-48 on Dec. 5."Pitt's very physical," Moldoveanu said. "I think we blew some [defensive] assignments and that can't happen. Pitt makes you pay the price whenever that happens.American led 12-10 with 13:11 remaining in the first half. The Panthers then went on a 15-2 run keyed by Wanamaker's seven points over the next 10 minutes to make it 27-14, and they looked to be pulling away from a team that struggled to beat Mount St. Mary's 69-64 on Monday.But with the 6-foot-9 Moldoveanu repeatedly shooting over Pitt defenders, the Eagles scored nine of the first 10 points to start the second half and were within 42-35 following Troy Brewer's 3-pointer with 13:35 remaining.The Eagles, decidedly smaller than Pitt, used their quickness and patience to frustrate the Panthers at times defensively and forced them into missing their first six shots of the second half. Pitt made only 13 of 25 free throws.Pittsburgh finally began building its lead against the Patriot League favorites when Wanamaker hit a jumper and a free throw and Ashton Gibbs and Brown each made 3-pointers during a 9-0 run that made it 56-39. Gibbs scored 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting.The Panthers won their 56th consecutive nonconference game at the Petersen Events Center, where they play No. 4 Connecticut in their Big East opener on Monday night."We told Coach we've got some more things we want to accomplish," Brown said.