Nov. 10, 2010

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Ashton Gibbs scored 24 points, Brad Wanamaker added 17 and No. 5 Pittsburgh opened an 18-point lead midway through the first half while cruising to its second victory in three nights, a 97-54 decision over rebuilding Illinois-Chicago on Wednesday night.

The Panthers (2-0) didn't need long to take control in the 2K Sports Classic game against the Flames (0-1), a Horizon League member coming off an 8-22 season.

Wanamaker had a driving layup, two pull-up jumpers and a 3-pointer in the opening seven minutes as Pitt opened leads of 9-2, 14-4 and 22-6 against Illinois-Chicago, which was playing its first game under new coach Howard Moore, a former Wisconsin assistant.

Pitt had it much harder at the start during its 83-75 victory Monday over Rhode Island in the nation's first Division I game of the season. The Panthers trailed by eight points in the first half then and didn't put the Rams away until the final three minutes - an unusually tight game for a Top 5 team in its season opener.

This one, as expected, wasn't nearly as close.

Pitt made it 26-8 on Gibbs' two free throws with 9:37 remaining in the half, allowing coach Jamie Dixon to spread playing time among 10 players as he looks for an effective rotation.

Illinois-Chicago, 1-16 on the road the last two seasons, never got any closer than 12 points after that. Pitt won its 49th consecutive home game against a non-conference opponent at the Petersen Events Center, where the Panthers are 134-11 over nine seasons.

With Gary McGhee and Dante Taylor getting eight rebounds each, Pitt outrebounded Illinois-Chicago 45-25 and has a 90-57 advantage through two games.

Pitt was guaranteed of advancing to the tournament's semifinals against Maryland on Nov. 18 in New York even before winning its two home games. The Panthers will play either Texas or Illinois the following night.

The Flames, not nearly as quick or as deep as Rhode Island, never did find an answer for the quickness and playmaking skills of Wanamaker and Gibbs, the backcourt that led Pitt to a 25-9 record and the second round of the NCAA tournament last season.

Gibbs was 5 of 10 from 3-point range and Wanamaker made his only attempt as Pittsburgh was 11 of 21 from beyond the arc, a significant improvement from its 3 of 16 against Rhode Island.

Gibbs, coming off a 22-point game against Rhode Island, is averaging 23 points and Wanamaker is averaging 20.5 through two games.

K.C. Robbins scored 12 points for the Flames. Paul Carter, a 6-foot-8 senior who graduated from Minnesota but is finishing his eligibility at UIC, scored six points on 1-for-10 shooting.

Carter, the son of former NBA player Ron Carter, transferred so he could be closer to his 14-year-old sister, Bria, who is recovering from cancer.