Pitt 73, Providence 71

When the Pitt men's basketball teams runs last-second shots in practice, sharp-shooting sophomore guard Ashton Gibbs said he usually passes off to a teammate.

It's a good thing for the Panthers that he didn't do that in a game situation.

As time ran out for Pittsburgh against Providence Thursday night at the Petersen Events Center, Ashton Gibbs drilled nearly a 26-foot 3-pointer to dump the Friars 73-71 in a Big East Conference game.

Providence took a 71-70 lead when guard Brian McKenzie made 1 of 2 free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining. Pitt's Gilbert Brown quickly triggered the inbounds pass to Gibbs, as two Friars converged. Gibbs crossed half-court, pulled up just outside NBA 3-point range and nailed the shot.

"I felt it,'' Gibbs said. "It felt good as soon as it left my hand, and it went in. ...(The pressure) was so-so. They backed off a little bit, and that's what you expect, a little bit. But I just took what they gave me. I just wanted to be aggressive with it and knock it down.''

Gibbs canned 9 of 13 shots from the field, including a 6-for-9 performance from 3-point range, to lead the Panthers (23-7, 12-5) with 25 points in 37 minutes. The Friars (12-17, 4-13) had a couple different guys try to guard Gibbs, but none could stop him on this night.

"I give credit to my teammates for getting the ball to me in the right spots and screening for me to get open,'' Gibbs said. "My coaching staff has been pressing me to move without the ball a lot more (to get open), and that's what I've been trying to do.''

Still, with the score tied 68-68 and about two minutes remaining, the Panthers failed to get Gibbs even one touch during three straight possessions. Junior guard Bradley Wanamaker connected with senior guard Jermaine Dixon for a score and one with 42 seconds remaining, but Dixon missed the free throw.

Providence guard Sharaud Curry hit two free throws on the ensuing trip down the court, but Wanamaker missed the potential game-winner with four seconds remaining. And Dixon had to foul McKenzie, who made just one from the line to set up Gibbs' last-second heroics.

Providence coach Keno Davis said that the plan was to keep two defenders close to Gibbs, but they didn't want to foul a guy who's among the best free-throw shooters in the nation at 88.7 pecent this season.

"You don't want any body contact,'' Davis said. "The last thing you want is for him to go to the free-throw line. You need to make him make a tough shot and we did. And he made it.''

The lead changed five times in the final four-plus minutes, but Pitt was fortunate to get the final touch. Redshirt sophomore forward Jamine Peterson was a nightmare for the Panthers with 24 points and 18 rebounds, as the Friars forged a 36-36 tie in rebounding with a late surge.

Curry added 16 points, while Marshon Brooks had 13 for Providence, which played a ranked team for the seventh time in 10 games and is 1-9 in its last 10 against Pitt. The only win was at Providence last year when the Panthers were No. 1. The Friars haven't won in six road games since beating DePaul 79-62 Jan. 14 and have lost nine straight and 11 of the past 12.

"We're not as good as Pittsburgh,'' Davis said. "They're definitely a Top-20 team, but we're not too far away even though our record (stinks).''

Pitt went on a 15-1 run that included three baskets by Dixon and was capped by a Wanamaker trey for a 32-23 advantage after trailing by six. Dixon finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds. He made 11 of 18 shots, but was 0-for-3 from long range. Most of his scoring take on drives and slashes to the hoop.

"They want me to drive more to the basket,'' Dixon said. "That's something that I'm good at, but I haven't been doing much of (lately). I'll either get a layup or pass it to somebody else.''

The Panthers led 44-37 with 16:11 left, but Providence scored the next seven points to tie it. The Friars, ranked 15th in the 16-team Big East, went ahead 61-56 as Vincent Council scored inside with 6:56 remaining and appeared ready to pull off another upset.

The game was especially low-scoring by Providence's standards. The Friars allowed 99 points in each of their previous two games and were 332nd in scoring defense among the nation's 334 Division I-A schools with an average of 81.2 points allowed overall and 85.7 against Big East opponents.

Pitt, which secured a double-bye with the victory, needs a win over Rutgers and a Villanova loss to West Virginia Saturday to be the No. 2 seed in the Big East Tournament next week.

"I haven't thought about that,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "I'm only thinking about Rutgers.''

Pitt faces the Scarlet Knights Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center.

Panther More Top Stories