Something was bound to give when Pittsburgh faced Seton Hall Sunday afternoon in Newark, N.J.
The host Pirates overcame Jeremy Hazell's foul trouble with 19 points and nine rebounds from Herb Pope in a 64-61 win against the Panthers. Pitt sophomore Ashton Gibbs had a couple 3-point chances as time ran out.
Hazell, Seton Hall's leading scorer, tallied just nine points in 16 minutes. He got three fouls, including a technical, and sat with more than 12 minutes remaining in the first half. And he picked up a fourth early in the second half.
"For us to win with Jeremy on the bench with nine points, it shows we're becoming a good team,'' Gonzalez said. "We're also a team that can win different ways. It was the 80s the other night versus Louisville and today it was the 60s. That's a good sign that you are becoming a good team."
The last time Seton Hall (12-6, 3-4 Big East) beat a top-10 team was March 3, 2006, when they also beat then-No. 8 Pitt, 65-61. Gonzalez had never beaten Pitt (15-4, 5-2 Big East) before.
Since Gonzalez took over in 2007, The Hall had beaten a couple of teams ranked in the teens. Gonzalez wasn't aware that this was his biggest win at the school until he was told so after the game.
"It's a great win for me personally, a great win for our program and a great win for our team,'' Gonzalez said. "Hopefully it gets a little national attention, even though it's early in the year.
"There was this perception out there of, 'What's wrong with Seton Hall?' They have good talent and good expectations, but their record is not that good.''
With the latest two wins and near misses against West Virginia, Syracuse, Temple and Connecticut, the Pirates have a chance to make a run at the NCAA Tournament. But Seton Hall still has a lot of work to do in that regard.
Jeff Robinson tallied 15 points and hit two clutch free throws with 12 seconds to give the Pirates their final margin.
Gibbs had 23 points, including all 14 of his free throws, to lead Pitt, but he missed two tying 3-point attempts in the final five seconds. Jermaine Dixon added 11 points for the Panthers, who lost their second straight for the first time since February 2008. No. 12 Georgetown beat Pitt Wednesday.
"It's a disappointing loss,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We didn't play well enough to win. Our execution, both offensively and defensively, wasn't good enough to win. Our turnovers were too high. Those are things that are going to get you beat. We made bad decisions with the ball. We've had a couple of bad games now.''
The story of the first half and the game was the Pirates' ability to play without Hazell, the Conference's second-leading scorer with a 23-point average. He picked up three fouls in the opening seven minutes, including a technical, and got his fourth in the opening seconds of the second half.
The Pirates, however, found a way to win without him, using their defense. They limited Pitt to 35 percent shooting from the field, forced 20 turnovers and basically beat the Panthers at their own slowdown game.
"This is a stepping stone for us to learn and build from this and try to grow,'' Pope said. "We still had some mental lapses down the stretch and at the end of the game, where it was shaky.''
Trailing 33-32 early in the second half, Pope scored the final five points in a 9-0 run that gave the Pirates the lead for good at 41-33.
Pitt managed to get to within 45-43 midway through the half, but Seton Hall eventually got two free throws from Robinson, a layup from Hazell and a layup from Pope to push the advantage to 56-47 with 6:22 remaining.
Seton Hall was still leading 60-54 with 90 seconds left when Pitt made its final push. Two free throws by Dixon closed the gap to four points, and after Jordan Theodore made a free throw -- filling in for a cramping Pope -- Gibbs cut the lead to 61-58 with two free throws with 37 seconds left.
Pope made another free throw with 21.5 seconds to go, then Gilbert Brown nailed a 3-pointer with 15.1 seconds to go to make it a one possession game. Robinson then made his free throws and Gibbs, a New Jersey native, failed twice to tie the game.
"I felt confident about the first one,'' said Gibbs, who was 4 of 15 from the field, including 1 of 7 from long range. "I really thought it was going in. The second one, I didn't have a good look and rushed it up there.''
Hazell picked up his second personal foul with 12:56 left in the half on a reach-in at midcourt against Brown with the score tied. Annoyed by the call, Hazell mouthed off to referee Karl Hess and got a technical, which counted as his third personal.
Instead of falling apart, the Pirates stayed close and put together a 16-4 run keyed by six points by Robinson and four steals by Eugene Harvey, who finished with nine points.
A jumper by Pope gave Seton Hall a 30-19 lead with 2:38 left in the half but Pitt scored the final six points with Bradley Wanamaker hitting a 3-pointer to cap the spurt.
After a putrid 11-for-39 performance from the field against Georgetown, Gibbs, Wanamaker and Dixon were 12-for-37 against Seton Hall. Pitt shot a season-worst 35.3 percent overall against the Pirates (18-for-51). The Panthers hit 87.5 percent (21-24) of their free throws, which marked their best free-throw shooting day of the year.
With its 20 turnovers, Pitt finished with its second highest turnover total on the season. The Panthers committed 21 turnovers against Ohio Dec. 22, 2009.
Pitt dropped to 28-20 all-time in games played against Seton Hall. The Panthers dropped to 11-12 all-time in contests played against Seton Hall in New Jersey. The Panthers had won two straight contests against the Pirates in Newark.
Pitt lost two consecutive games for only the seventh total time since Jamie Dixon took over as head coach. The Panthers have lost three consecutive games only two times since the 2003-04 season. The last time Pitt lost two straight was Feb. 21 and 24, 2008 with losses to Notre Dame and Louisville.
The Panthers are back in action against St. John's Thursday at 7 at the Petersen Events Center.
Seton Hall 64, Pitt 61
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