He managed 16 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and four blocks (which matches his career-best) in 34 minutes, and you had to wonder if his best game of the season - though the 17-point, 13-rebound, one-block performance against Maryland was pretty strong as well - was the result of Cronin's choice to insert him back into the starting lineup.
According to Gates, the answer to that is "No."
"It wasn't getting in the starting lineup," Gates said. "It was our pregame. We went over the situation, coach went over how evenly our guards were with theirs, and the difference in the game could come down to how the bigs played. That was kind of motivation to come out and get the job done."
Gates, though he wasn't as aggressive in going to the basket as I thought he should when matched up against Pitt's Gary McGhee and he settled for too many jumpers, played very well in the first half (12 points on 6 of 7 shooting to go with nine rebounds and three blocks), Pittsburgh adjusted in the second half.
performing in the 22nd Big East game of his career, Gates can
appreciate what he went through in his freshman season while playing in this
league. Going against
"It taught me that every night you have to be ready," Gates said. "You can't come in and be lackadaisical."
--One problem for UC tonight was that the Bearcats traded baskets with Pitt. Then, when UC would miss a shot, the Panthers took advantage with a small flurry to build a bigger lead. The Bearcats seemed to let one missed shot affect the next possession. That was what Cronin bemoaned the most in his postgame presser.
"Our biggest problem as a team when we're in a high level game like this, you're not going to score every time," Cronin said. "You have to get some stops. Our problem, we trade, we trade and we trade and we miss and they score. We can't compound the problem and go down and take a tough shot and then go down and give up a layup. You can't allow one possession to affect the next possession. We have to mature a little bit as a team in that area. You have to have a tough mettle about you. We have too much carryover. We have to let things go when things don't go our way."
--Freshman guard Lance Stephenson had such a big first half - he had 13 points - but Pitt coach Jamie Dixon didn't seem so concerned with it. In fact, he was happy with the way the Panthers played defense on Stephenson throughout the game.
pretty good because he took tough shots in the first half,"
Said Stephenson: "I was forcing some of the shots that I was taking. It happens. They played me hard and guarded me hard. I just tried to keep the game close. I didn't want them to pull away. At the end, they did that."