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.