Pitt is still having a sluggish time coming out of the gate to start these recent games. Just as they have in now five of their last nine games, the Panthers came back from a halftime deficit to pick up a Big East win. This time, Pitt turned a 27-24 halftime deficit into an explosive 66-50 win over USF.
Pitt improves to 26-4 overall, 14-3 in the Big East, while USF drops to 9-21 overall, 3-14 in the Big East. Tonight's win also marked Pitt's seventh Big East road win this season, which is a new school record.
Pitt had difficulty in the first half against USF's 2-3 zone. That combined with the simple fact the Bulls were knocking down shots, led to the halftime deficit. The Panthers trailed by as many as five in the first half, but kept it within three at the break thanks to a bucket at the end of the half from Nasir Robinson.
In the second half, it was Robinson and Gary McGhee taking over the game. McGhee, specifically, talked about getting the ball inside and converting opportunities in the paint, to help rectify Pitt's recent troubles against some of the 2-3 zones they've seen. It worked as McGhee was 4-of-5 (80 %) from the field, and Robinson shot 6-of-8 (75%). In fact, starters Robinson McGhee, Gilbert Brown and Ashton Gibbs combined to shoot 21-of-28 (75%) from the field.
Robinson led the Panthers with 18 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double of the season. Gibbs and Brown also finished in double-figures, with 16 points and 10 points respectively. In addition to his performance from the field, Robinson converted 6-of-9 (66.7%) free throws. Entering the game, Robinson was shooting 51.7 % from the line. Coming off an 11-of-20 (55 %) performance from the free throw line Sunday at Louisville, Pitt answered with an 11-of-16 (68.8%) performance at USF.
Pitt wasted little time making its second-half comeback. After Augustus Gilchrist put USF up 29-26 in the early goings of the second half, Pitt went on a 12-0 run, holding the Bulls without a field goal for nearly five minutes. Though the lead changed six times in the first half, once Pitt went on the early 12-0 run, they never trailed again.
Pitt didn't stop with the early 12-0 run. They continued, completing the first ten minutes of the second half with a 23-5 run, a span where they converted all ten shots they attempted, which included two three-pointers from Gibbs. During the same stretch, USF was 2-of-11 from the field.
Pitt returns home for Senior Day on Saturday, as they host Villanova at 4 pm. The magic number is one, meaning either one Notre Dame loss or one Pitt win, and the Panthers are Big East regular season champions. Notre Dame's regular season finale is Saturday at 2 pm at UConn.