Originally published March 17, 2011 at 05:44p.m., updated March 17, 2011 at 06:05p.m.
Pittsburgh was bigger, stronger and more physical. Matt Dickey made a few more shots that might look good on the Internet.
The result was a well-established norm: The No. 1 beat the No. 16.
Ashton Gibbs scored 20 of his 26 points after halftime, and Pittsburgh kept the top seeds perfect against the 16s in the NCAA tournament, pulling away in the second half to beat UNC-Asheville 74-51 on Thursday.
The Panthers (28-5) led by three early in the second half, but they eventually showed the scrappy Big South champions what Big East play is all about, out-rebounding the Bulldogs 50-27 to make up for a so-so shooting performance by nearly everyone but Gibbs.
He finished two points off his career high, set in a quarterfinal loss to UConn in the Big East tournament. Gibbs shot 4 for 5 from 3-point range in the second half and scored seven points in the 13-5 run that put the game away.
The Panthers (28-5) advanced to play No. 8 seed Butler in the next round. The Bulldogs beat Old Dominion in the day's opening game at the Verizon Center.
Pitt eventually got around to running, dunking and doing whatever it wished against UNC-Asheville (20-14), ending a whirlwind week for Dickey, coach Eddie Biedenbach and his Bulldogs from the mountains of North Carolina.
Dickey scored 21 points but was only 2 for 9 from 3-point range. He helped put the Bulldogs on the map with a YouTube-sensation 3-point winner late in the regular season, then hit the 3 that sent the game to overtime in a win over Arkansas-Little Rock in a Dayton play-in game.
Dickey had a four-point play in the first half Thursday and made a nice bank shot on a drive into the paint to cut Pitt's lead to 30-25 at the half. But he had to feel claustrophobic around the Panthers, who double-teamed him on defense while continuing their rebounding dominance on the offensive end.
Pitt finished with nearly as many offensive rebounds (22) as UNC-Asheville had total (27).
With no starter taller than 6-foot-5, UNC-Asheville proved to be a scrappy opponent. The Bulldogs were chasing down loose balls and blocking shots in the opening minutes before a 1-for-10 cold spell turned into a 16-2 run and 23-11 lead for the Panthers.
Dickey finally hit a basket — the 3-pointer that drew a foul and turned into a four-point play — and UNC-Asheville slowly worked its way back.
The Bulldogs pulled within three twice in the second half as Dickey started to find some range. Pitt got the lead back to 10, but Dickey made a layup and fed J.P. Primm on a fast break for another score, making it 41-35 and forcing Panthers coach Jamie Dixon to use a timeout.
In the end, the Bulldogs just couldn't keep pace.
They finished 3 for 19 from 3-point range, hampering any hope of completing the comeback. When Gibbs and Gilbert Brown hit back-to-back 3s to put the Panthers ahead by 17, the No. 1 vs. No. 16 streak was destined to stay intact.