March 4, 2010
PITTSBURGH (AP)–Ashton Gibbs hit a 3-pointer several steps inside the midcourt line just ahead of the final buzzer and No. 17 Pittsburgh avoided being upset by Providence for the second successive season, winning 73-71 on Thursday night.
The Panthers (23-7, 12-5) secured a double bye in next week’s Big East tournament, overcoming sluggish stretches in each half as Gibbs scored 25 points and Jermaine Dixon had a career-high 24.
Pitt still has a chance to be seeded No. 2 in the conference tournament.
Jamine Peterson had 24 points and 18 rebounds, but Providence (12-17, 4-13) lost its ninth straight and 11th in 12 games, failing to hold a 61-56 lead with nearly 7 minutes remaining.
The Panthers have won nine of 10 against the Friars, but lost to them 81-73 at Providence last season while ranked No. 1.
As the lead changed hands five times in the final 4 1/2 minutes, Pitt took a 70-68 lead on Dixon’s two free throws with 40.3 seconds to play, but Sharaud Curry made two foul shots 5 seconds later. Brian McKenzie put the Friars ahead 71-70 by making one of two at the line with 3.5 seconds to play, but that only set up a closely guarded Gibbs’ long game-winner.
Curry added 16 points and Marshon Brooks had 13 for Providence, which played a ranked team for the seventh time in 10 games. The Friars haven’t won in six road games since beating DePaul 79-62 on Jan. 14.
The Panthers overcame deficits in each half to win their sixth in seven games since dropping four of five.
Pitt went on a 15-1 run that included three baskets by Dixon and was finished off by a 3-pointer by Brad Wanamaker to lead 32-23 late in the first half after trailing by six points.
The Panthers led 44-37 with 16:11 left, but Providence–the loser of 18 of 21 at Pitt–scored the next seven points to tie it at 44.
The Friars–who came in 15th in the 16-team Big East–went ahead 61-56 as Vincent Council scored inside with 6:56 remaining, and seemed ready to pull off the upset mostly because Pitt could not contain the 6-foot-9 Peterson inside.
The game was especially low-scoring by Providence’s standards. The Friars allowed 99 points in each of their previous two games and came in 332nd in scoring defense among the nation’s 334 Division I schools, allowing an average of 81.2 points–85.7 against Big East opponents.
Pitt, however, came in averaging 68.2 points and didn’t get many more than that against a team that hadn’t permitted fewer than 88 points in its previous four games–despite shooting 53.4 percent to the Friars’ 41.3 percent.
Providence, one of the Big East’s best teams from 3-point range was 6 of 16 beyond the arc to Pitt’s 8 of 19, with Gibbs dropping in six of nine.
Dixon’s previous career high was 21 points in Pitt’s upset of now-No. 1 Syracuse on Jan. 2.
Pitt needs a win over Rutgers and a Villanova loss to West Virginia on Saturday to be seeded No. 2 in the Big East tournament.