CHICAGO (AP) - Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon is having no problem letting his seniors do all the work.
Senior Gilbert Brown scored 17 points and Ashton Gibbs added 13 to lead No. 5 Pittsburgh to an 80-50 victory over DePaul on Saturday.
With the exception of a brief lapse early in the second half, the Panthers (19-1, 7-0 Big East) cruised to their ninth straight win.
Along with Brown, Dixon got another strong performance from seniors Brad Wanamker and Gary McGhee. Wanamker had nine points and nine assists and McGhee controlled the lane with 15 rebounds.
``They're playing really well. I talked to other people in the last couple weeks about how it's rare that the three seniors play this well and it is even more rare that three seniors improve during their senior year as much as they have,' Dixon said.
``All three of them are playing at a high, high level. Their leadership and the way they handle things is beyond the call,' said Dixon. ``I missed practice the other day (Thursday), I was under the weather, but it was senior practice they ran the show.'
The troubles continued for DePaul (6-13, 0-7 Big East). The Blue Demons dropped their 20th straight game in the conference and have lost 43 of its last 44 Big East regular season games. Freshman Cleveland Melvin led DePaul with 11 points.
``I just reminded the guys this is the game we love. I'm just happy that (DePaul athletic director) Jeanie (Lenti-Ponsetto) is paying me to do this and they ought to be happy they are on scholarship playing,' DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said.
After blowing out No. 3 Syracuse and a game looming with No. 16 Notre Dame on Monday, the Panthers did not get caught looking past DePaul.
``Even with the Seton Hall game before the Syracuse game and how the DePaul game before the Notre Dame game this Monday, he always stresses it almost the trap game because everybody in the media and the fans are looking forward to us playing the national ranked opponents,' Wanamaker said. ``Instead of just looking pass them as if this was going to be an easy win, we really worked in practice and he (Dixon) stresses everyday that we have to stay focus.'
Pittsburgh briefly trailed 14-12 midway through the first half, but Gibbs made a jumper and capped off a 7-0 run with a 3. The Panthers outscored the Blue Demons 9-2 in the final 2:32 of the first half to pull away.
Brown cleaned up a miss with a dunk. Later he made a 3 and McGhee had a free throw to give Pittsburgh a 38-23 lead at the half. Brown started the second half with a 3 to give the Panthers a 41-23, their largest lead, but DePaul used a 12-1 run to get back in the game.
DePaul got back-to-back 3-pointers from Jeremiah Kelly and Mike Stovall and Mike Bizoukas forced Travon Woodall into a turnover to set up Stovall for a layup to get the Blue Demons within 42-35.
The Panthers took control for good behind its 3-point shooting. Lamar Patterson buried a 3 to increase the lead to 52-38 and Gibbs made back-to-back 3's to give Pittsburgh a 61-50 lead with 7:11 left, capping off an 18-3 run.
``For the most part, I was happy how we executed against their press, the shots that we took on the back-end of their press against a team that is obviously young but is getting better and will be good because all I know is the track record of Coach Purnell of everywhere he's been so we were fortunate to get them now but we all know how good they are going to be down the road once he gets his guys and the younger guys get more experience,' said Dixon.
It's been a tough run for Purnell, he watched his team get beat by 20 against Connecticut last week and then suffered a 30-point loss to Marquette on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh shot 53.8 percent in the first half. Brown led Pittsburgh with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Melvin scored seven points for DePaul.
The Associated Press News Service
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