'Fantastic' Robertson leads Bulls past Pittsburgh
TAMPA -- Pittsburgh came in red-hot, winners of four straight, and USF was coming off a 30-point loss at Georgetown, but you'd never know it from the two teams playing in Tampa Bay Times Forum on Wednesday night.
The Bulls played stellar defense, led by senior guard Hugh Robertson, who shut down Pitt star Ashton Gibbs and scored a season-high 18 points of his own in a convincing 63-51 win.
"The defense was outstanding," coach Stan Heath said. "I'd like to bottle that and take that everywhere we go the rest of the year if we could. Hugh Robertson did a fantastic job on a great player in Gibbs, and at the same time, offensively, he stayed in attack mode, very aggressive."
USF (14-10, 7-4 in Big East) continues to build its resume for postseason play, and Robertson was a big part of that Wednesday. He was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field (the best mark by a Bulls player in a Big East game), hit all four of his free throws and held Gibbs -- voted by league coaches as Big East preseason player of the year -- to 4 points, his lowest total in nearly two years.
"It was a team effort ... that's the bulk of our team, our defense," said Robertson, who is routinely assigned to opponents' top scorer. "It's my job, to play defense, to try to take the best player out of the game. It's what I tried to do tonight."
USF got a 3-pointer by Jawanza Poland at the buzzer before halftime for a 27-23 lead, but it was a 14-4 run midway through the second half that gave the Bulls a 49-35 lead with eight minutes remaining. During that run, USF held Pittsburgh (15-10, 4-8) to one field goal and four turnovers in 10 possessions, frustrating the Panthers with the defensive persistence.
"I think they frustrated all of us," point guard Tray Woodall said. "We just didn't get any great looks at the end of the game. We got early looks that we didn't finish. I've got to do a better job of getting guys easier shots, to get us back in our offense."
Pittsburgh cut USF's lead to eight points with 2:48 to play, but freshman point guard Anthony Collins answered with a jumper and two free throws in a span of 14 seconds, and the Bulls closed out the game at the free-throw line.
"It was a battle of patience, and they clearly won that," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We're extremely disappointing, because we haven't been playing like this."
USF has two of its easiest remaining games in the next week, playing Saturday at Providence (2-10 in Big East), then returning home to play Villanova (4-8) on Wednesday, with a rematch at Pittsburgh on Feb. 19.