Pitt started the game, shooting under 30 percent in the first half, as they fell behind 28-27. The Panthers shot just 35 percent for the game, and had to rely on a strong free-throw shooting performance, something that's been a weakness of this team in the past.
The Panthers converted 28-of-35 free throws for the game, despite hitting just four field goals in the final ten minutes of the game, in mounting a comeback to pull out a 65-62 win at Rutgers on Saturday night. Ashton Gibbs led the Panthers with 24, followed by Gary McGhee who tied a career-high with 13 points, despite fouling out.
The Panthers went through two dry spells in the second half; a three-minute span where they went without a field goal, then another six-minute span. Both spans occurred in the final 10 minutes of the game, where they hit just four field goals over that 10-minutes span (4-of-10 from the field overall). The Panthers did convert 11-of-13 free throws over that final stretch, which was important for the final outcome.
Pitt trailed 28-27 at the half, after opening the game shooting 29 percent through the game's first 20 minutes. Pitt outrebounded Rutgers 20-18 in the first half, while the Scarlet Knights turned the ball over just twice. A pair of free throws in the final minutes of the first half by Travon Woodall and Gilbert Brown kept the Panthers within a point. Ashton Gibbs had 15 of Pitt's 27 points in the first half, including three three-pointers.
Gary McGhee got an early layup in the second half, giving Pitt its first lead of the game, 29-28, a little over a minute into the second half. However, Rutgers would get that lead back. After a missed three-pointer by James Beatty, freshman Mike Poole came up with an offensive rebound, and the putback, to give the Scarlet Knights a 35-31 lead with 14:38 left in the game, forcing Jamie Dixon to call a 30-second timeout.
Brad Wanamaker's first points of the night, a layup off a feed from Travon Woodall, then tied the game up at 35-35. Brown converted both of his free throws on the next possession, giving Pitt the lead again, 37-35, with 12:46 left. McGhee later was fouled after a layup. His converted three-point play gave Pitt a 40-37 lead. Pitt was starting to build some momentum, yet was still looking for more breathing room.
McGhee later added a dunk, to extend Pitt's lead to 44-40; capping seven second half points, at the halfway point of the second half.
Pitt added to the lead, going up 50-44 off a layup from Wanamaker, with seven minutes to play in the game. After a three-pointer from Robert Lumpkins, brought the Scarlet Knights back to within two, 51-49. Dante Taylor converted 2-of-2 free throws, followed by a 1-of-2 conversion from McGhee. Pitt led 54-49 with 4:28 left in the game.
McGhee blocked a shot on the next Rutgers possession. Pitt was still looking for its first field goal in five minutes. McGhee gave the ball to Wanamaker, who created a fast break. Wanamaker tried to set up Brown for a dunk, but Brown missed. A dunk by Brown would have sealed the game, but instead, Rutgers still had life. Mike Coburn was fouled by McGhee, who then fouled out. Coburn made 1-of-2 free throws to bring the Scarlet Knights to within 58-57 with 1:27 left.
Gibbs had the ball under the rim on Pitt's next try. As he tried to go one-on-one underneath, he was stopped inside by the Rutgers defense. With the ball being tipped out of bounds, the officials ruled a jump ball, with the possession arrow favoring Pitt. Seconds later, Gibbs seemingly iced the game with his fourth three-pointer of the game, putting Pitt up 61-57 with 57 seconds left.
Rutgers wasn't done. After Dane Miller converted 1-of-2 shots at the line, Rutgers fouled Gibbs before the in-bounds pass with 46.7 seconds left. Gibbs converted both free throws, improving his free throw total to 21-of-22 converted shots in Big East play this season. Pitt was up 63-57.
On the ensuing possession, Coburn went to the line again, fouled by Lamar Patterson this time. Coburn made both free throws, as Pitt led 63-59 with 35.7 seconds left.
Patterson, on the next in-bounds pass, was called for a travel, giving the ball back to the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers capitalized again off a Pitt miscue, as Coburn hit Lumpkin, who banked one off the glass. Pitt led 63-62 with 20.9 seconds left.
This time, Wanamaker took the next in-bounds pass, and was fouled immediately. He converted both opportunities, finishing a perfect 9-for-9 streak from the free throw line for Pitt, as the Panthers went up 65-62.
On what would be Rutgers' final possession, Miller put up a three. Woodall came up with the rebound inside the arc, then passed the ball up court, as the Panthers ran out the clock. Pitt has a week off, before returning to action next Saturday at home against Cincinnati.