PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Pitt's bench could end up being the decisive factor for the Panthers if they're going to win the Big East.
AP Photo/Mel EvansBrad Wanamaker scored 15 points off the bench in Pitt's win over Rutgers.
Ashton Gibbs, a 6-2 freshman guard, contributed off the bench as well, playing nine minutes and spelling Levance Fields at the point. Freshman guard Travon Woodall didn't even get in the game. If Woodall -- who hails from Paterson, N.J., was recruited by Rutgers and would no doubt be playing significant minutes for the Scarlet Knights had he matriculated -- can pitch in, then the bench will become even deeper.
It's clear that the soul of this team consists of Fields, Blair and senior forwards Tyrell Biggs and Sam Young. Biggs is a do-everything player who had six points and 10 boards against Rutgers, while Young is a Big East Player of the Year candidate and an extremely tough matchup who had another ho-hum 18 points Wednesday. Junior college transfer Jermaine Dixon will have opportunities to contribute, and the 6-foot-3 wing did so with three huge steals against Rutgers."It just makes us that much better," Fields said. "We've got guys scoring the ball, rebounding and coming up with assists. They're all impacting the game, giving us energy and buckets as well."
Saed Hindash/US PresswireFreshman Mike Rosario is averaging almost 18 points a game for Rutgers.
• Illinois State is putting together a Drake-like season in the Missouri Valley. The Redbirds won again, beating Evansville by 30 to go to 13-0 and 2-0 in the league. Southern Illinois lost to Northern Iowa to drop to 0-2. Circle the Illinois State-Creighton game Saturday and the one on Feb. 28 in Omaha as the two games of the year in the Valley.• Two teams to keep an eye on: Texas A&M is 12-1, winning at Rice Wednesday, and Utah State is 12-1, outlasting Wyoming at home in overtime. Utah State is emerging as the favorite in the WAC. A&M is a solid pick to make the NCAA tourney and will cause fits for everyone in the Big 12. • Gonzaga may have gone from the top five to out of the Top 25 after losing at Utah on Wednesday when Matt Bouldin and Austin Daye couldn't convert a final bucket in a 66-65 loss. Next up for the Zags is a visit to Tennessee. The schedule just looks ludicrous at this point, with so many games away from the Kennel. Gonzaga is 8-4. Talk of Gonzaga as a No. 1 seed out of the West is now moot. This shouldn't be a reach, but don't be surprised to see a Big East team as a No. 1 seed in the West, as there might not be a likely candidate from the West to serve in that role. • Stony Brook had the shocker of the night by beating Air Force 67-64 on the road. The America East now has wins over the Mountain West (Air Force by Stony Brook), the Big 12 (Colorado by Vermont and Nebraska by UMBC), the Atlantic 10 (George Washington by Vermont), the Big East (Rutgers by Binghamton) and Conference USA (Tulane by Binghamton).