Pitt takes down Providence for road win
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Not once did Pitt trail Providence on Tuesday night in their Big East Conference game at Dunkin' Donuts Center.
The Friars didn't allow the Panthers to breathe easy, though.
Providence rallied from a 12-point deficit to make it close in the final minutes before James Robinson came through in the clutch for the second consecutive game. The Pitt freshman point guard sank two free throws with 9.1 seconds remaining to help the Panthers escape with a 68-64 victory.
“Teams are going to make runs,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We're on the road. We didn't give up the lead. We kept the lead, and we made free throws. If you watch games in our conference, there's always going to be runs, always going to be teams make it a challenge.”
It was the third consecutive conference win for the Panthers (16-4, 4-3), who had lost close games to Cincinnati, Rutgers and Marquette, and one where they relied more on 51 percent shooting (26 of 51) than their trademarks of defense and rebounding, as both teams had 30.
“We had a nice lead, played well early,” Dixon said. “I thought our offense really carried us the whole game. We don't want to rely on our offense to win games for us, on the road especially, but that's what it was. They made shots, and they rebounded evenly with us.”
Providence coach Ed Cooley agreed with at least part of that sentiment: The part about Pitt being lucky to get a road victory in the rough-and-tumble Big East.
“I think they were very, very, very fortunate to get a win in here,” Cooley said. “And a lot of that was our lack of execution. Were there even any fouls called in the game? Seriously, were any fouls called? That was a football game out there; that was the Patriots and Ravens in basketball uniforms.”
To answer his question, yes, there were 28 fouls called. What might have had Cooley frustrated is that his Friars were called for 15 of those, including a flagrant foul when Pitt's Tray Woodall was elbowed by Providence point guard Vincent Council at 1:29 of the first half.
Lamar Patterson led the Panthers with 17 points, including 11 in the first half, and a team-best seven rebounds. The junior swingman was 7 of 10 from the field, consistently beating the Friars off the dribble for uncontested layups. No other Pitt player scored in double figures, but the Panthers got 20 points from their bench, including nine points and four rebounds from forward J.J. Moore and six points and three rebounds from guard Trey Zeigler.
After shooting 40.7 percent from the field in the first half, Providence (10-9, 2-5) made 15 of 28 shots (53.6 percent) in the second half. The Friars were led by Big East scoring leader Bryce Cotton, who had a game-high 24 points on 9 of 16 shooting, including four 3s. Center Kadeem Batts finished with 17 points and nine rebounds. Council finished with 11 points and seven assists.
“Council is as good a driver and penetrator as there is in the country, and Cotton is as good a shooter as there is in the country,” Dixon said, “so they've got very good players, they're well-coached and they play hard.”
Pitt got off to a strong start behind the play of 7-foot freshman center Steven Adams, who scored the game's first five points before picking up a pair of fouls by the 17:26 mark. He did not play the remainder of the first half and finished with eight points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in 18 minutes.
“He was a presence inside defensively in the first couple minutes of play,” said Woodall, who finished with nine points and eight assists.
Pitt never trailed in the first half and led, 29-17, before the Friars rallied behind Cotton, a junior guard who scored 13 points in the final 7:03. His third 3-pointer at 1:04 made it 34-27 at halftime. Batts scored eight points in the first 8:23 of the second half, dominating the paint while Adams tried not to pick up another foul.
Providence cut it to 51-49 on LaDontae Henton's 3-pointer at 7:32, but Pitt freshman forward Durand Johnson answered with a trey.
Patterson added what appeared to be another dagger, driving from the top of the key and laying in a finger roll for a 60-53 lead with 3:32 remaining.
Woodall then found J.J. Moore in the left corner for a 3-pointer that gave the Panthers a 63-53 lead with 2:24 left.
Providence responded with a 7-1 run, as Cotton hit a 15-foot jumper, freshman Josh Fortune a 3-pointer and Cotton scored on a steal and breakaway layup.
After Patterson missed the front end of a one-and-one, Batts sank a free throw to make it 64-61 with 51.7 seconds left.
The Panthers came out of a timeout and fed it to Woodall, who sank a 15-foot jumper from the left elbow for a 66-61 lead. Cotton hit a 3-pointer to make it 66-64 with 11 seconds remaining before Robinson made his two free throws to seal yet another close victory.
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.
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