Panthers out-tough Friars in the end
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
It might have been their final trip to the Dunkin Donuts Center...but the way Pittsburgh's Panthers have played in this building recently, perhaps they'll come back for more.
Pittsburgh, moving onto the ACC next season, used a balanced effort on both ends of the floor, and held up under a frantic Friar finish to beat Providence 68-64 Tuesday night at the Dunk. The win for Pitt is their 4th straight in the series over PC, but also the 4th in the last five games they've played on the Friars' home floor.
Taking it a step further...the Panthers have actually beaten PC 12 of the last 13 times they've faced them in Big East play.
And they're giving all of this up for a few extra bucks?
The Panthers shot out of the starting gate with five quick points, thanks to 7-foot New Zealand big man (and pre-season Big East Rookie of the Year) Steven Adams. But after gaining two quick fouls early, Adams was forced to the bench, leaving it to a teammate to take over. 6-5 junior Lamar Patterson did just that, leading the way with 11 first half points as Pitt led by as much as 12 (29-17) in the first half before the Friars cut the deficit to seven at the break. Bryce Cotton scored 13 in the half to keep PC close, despite Pitt's 52% shooting from the floor.
Displaying much of the same tenacity defensively as they did on Saturday in a win over Villanova, each time the Panthers threatened to pull away in the second half, the Friars were there for an answer. The offense finally got untracked from its first-half troubles as Cotton (24 points) and Kadeem Batts (17 points, nine rebounds) worked it inside and out. PC cut a 10-point deficit to two before a huge three from redshirt freshman Durand Johnson - his only field goal of the night - stretched the Pitt advantage to five with just under seven minutes to play.
Again, the Panthers pulled out in front by 10 after a corner three from J.J. Moore (his only trey of the game) made it 63-53 with just 2:24 remaining. It was 64-55 Pitt when freshman Josh Fortune hit his only basket of the game - a three-point shot that pulled Providence(10-9, 2-5 Big East) within six....and after a Cotton steal and driving layup, plus a Batts free-throw, the Friars pulled within three and still :52 seconds left.
That's when senior Tray Woodall (nine points) iced it, stepping up to hit a 15-foot jumper, giving Pitt breathing room at 66-61 and only :23 ticks left.
Cotton canned another three to make it 66-64, but with :13 seconds remaining, the Panthers (16-4, 4-3 Big East) got two big free throws from freshman guard James Robinson to seal the deal...and send Pitt home a winner - again - from the Dunkin Donuts Center, in what is likely to be their final appearance on PC's home floor.
The only PC win in the run of 12-out-of-13 for the Panthers came in 2009, when then #1 Pittsburgh lost in the Dunk to the Friars, 81-73. That is the lone win on the home floor for the Friars over the Panthers since 2001...Cotton remains the top scorer in the Big East at 21.8 points per game, but it's clear he needs help. Only four other players managed to score at all against Pitt Tuesday night (Batts 17, LaDontae Henton nine points and seven rebounds, Vincent Council 11 points and Fortune with three). Kris Dunn, apparently suffering from an illness, started the game but could not score in 24 minutes. On the other side, Pitt's nine players all scored, led by Patterson's 17 points and seven rebounds. Depth - and options on offense - played a big part for Pittsburgh...the Panthers came into the game 6th nationally in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 53.9 points per game...10th nationally in field goal shooting at 49.1% (they shot 51% for the game), 5th nationally in fewest turnovers (9.8 per game). They did commit 14 turnovers, turned into 15 points by the Friars, but PC's 16 turnovers (leading to 20 Pitt points) proved to be a difference-maker...freshman James Robinson had a large contingent of family and friends in attendance at the game. Even though he hails from Maryland, much of his family lives in the Fox Point section of Providence...PC will play at Marquette Saturday in a 2:00 pm tip-off from the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, WI (pre-game at 1:45 on 103.7 FM)...