PITTSBURGH (AP) - Ashton Gibbs tied a career-high with 25 points and No. 4 Pittsburgh took advantage of the fact Cincinnati was playing without suspended forward Yancy Gates, beating the Bearcats 71-59 on Saturday night.
Gilbert Brown added 11 points for the Panthers (21-2, 9-1), who have built a two-game lead in the Big East standings.
Gates, a senior who leads Cincinnati in rebounds and blocked shots and was second in scoring, is suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. He did not make the trip.
Larry Davis had 13 points to lead Cincinnati (18-5, 5-5), which has lost five of eight after a 15-0 start. The Bearcats have lost 17 consecutive conference road games against ranked opponents.
Gibbs topped his season average (15.9) less than 13 minutes into the game. He made his first six shots - all from the outside, including four from 3-point range - before missing a layup on a fast break late in the first half.
Gibbs was 7 of 11 from the field and made all five of his 3-point attempts, and all six of his free throws. He's the Big East's top percentage 3-point shooter and entered Saturday seventh nationally in 3-pointers made per game.
It was the 20th career game of 20 or more points for Gibbs, who has nine this season - including 24 points in Pitt's most recent game Jan. 29. He had 25 in a game twice last season.
The Panthers took an early 10-2 lead and never allowed the Bearcats to get within 3 the rest of the way. They closed out the first half on a 16-4 run and hit 3-pointers on the first two possessions of the second half to double up Cincinnati at 46-23.
The Bearcats made a late charge, scoring eight consecutive points to pull to within 61-51. But the closest Cincinnati could get was within eight of the Panthers in the final minute.
No. 1 in the nation in rebound margin, and having out-rebounded 19 of its first 22 opponents, Pitt was thought to have an even greater advantage on the boards without Gates and his 6.9 rebounding average in the game. But the Bearcats became only the fourth team this season to out-rebound Pitt, 40-38.
Where Cincinnati was lacking without Gates was in finding high-percentage shots. The Bearcats shot a season-low 33.3 percent from the field (2-for-13 from 3-point range) and allowed the Panthers to shoot 46.8 percent.
The win inched the Panthers closer to their first conference regular season title since 2003-04. Notre Dame and Villanova are 7-3 in the Big East, with Louisville able to reach that mark with a win over winless DePaul later Saturday night.
Pitt lost its most recent home game, 56-51 to Notre Dame on Jan. 24 - only its second defeat at the Petersen Events Center in the past 53 games there. The Panthers hadn't lost two consecutive games at their on-campus facility since Feb. 23-26, 2005.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved