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Pitt once again can't solve Marquette

| Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 4:03 p.m.
Marquette's Trent Lockett shoots against Pitt's Cameron Wright (3) and Trey Zeigler (23) during the second half of the Golden Eagles' 79-69 victory over the Panthers on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, at Bradley Center in Milwaukee. (AP)

MILWAUKEE — Marquette couldn't miss, or so it seemed. Pitt couldn't stop the Golden Eagles from scoring, no matter what it tried.

The result was a mathematical mismatch, one that Panthers coach Jamie Dixon could hardly fathom, as No. 18 Marquette shot its way to a 79-69 victory over No. 16 Pitt on Saturday at Bradley Center to sweep their Big East season series.

The Golden Eagles (18-6, 9-3) destroyed Dixon's game plan by shooting 61.5 percent from the field in the first half and 56.5 percent for the game, won a 33-24 rebounding edge and sank 22 of 29 free throws to extend its home winning streak to 23 games, fourth longest in the nation.

“There were three things we wanted to do. Hold them under 40 percent defensively. We didn't come close to that. We wanted to keep them off the free-throw line. We certainly didn't come close to that. And obviously we got outrebounded,” Dixon said. “Simply put, a 10-point loss is pretty easy to see, given those numbers. Those are things that we do well, but we didn't.”

It was the most lopsided loss of the season for Pitt (20-6, 8-5), which allowed its most points this season. It marked only the third time the Panthers allowed 70 points or more, and two of those games have come against Marquette. The other was a 74-67 overtime loss Jan. 12 in which the Golden Eagles scored 57 in regulation.

In between, the Panthers won seven of eight, losing only at Louisville.

“I think if I were to say our best performance on the road in Big East play, it would be at Pitt, and I'd say our best performance at home in a Big East game thus far would be Pitt,” said Marquette coach Buzz Williams, who called the Panthers “one of the top two or three teams in our league.”

Where the win moved Marquette into a first-place tie with Georgetown in Big East standings, the defeat dropped the Panthers into a fifth-place tie with Notre Dame (20-6, 8-5), which visits Pitt at 7 p.m. Monday at Petersen Events Center. What's worse, the Fighting Irish have won four consecutive and five of six against Pitt, dating to 2008.

Marquette relied upon the dead-eye shooting of guards Vander Blue and Trent Lockett, who combined to make 9 of 10 shots, to take a 42-29 halftime lead. Pitt trailed by 10 when Lockett scored as the shot clock sounded, but the Panthers used a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 28-25. Lockett answered with a 3-pointer, and Marquette finished the half on an 11-2 run, including a 3-pointer by Jamil Wilson, three free throws by Todd Mayo and a 3-pointer by Blue with 27.4 seconds left.

Blue scored a game-high 19 points, making 7 of 8 from the field and 3 of 4 free throws. Wilson had 13 points and eight rebounds, and Lockett finished with 11. Backup center Davante Gardner added 14 points, as Marquette's bench outscored Pitt, 39-26.

“They made shots all the way through, the entire half,” Dixon said. “I think we were staying in it with our offense, not with our defense. Eventually it caught up to us.”

Pitt fell behind by double digits and trailed by as many as 18 points despite outscoring the Golden Eagles, 40-37, in the second half. Lamar Patterson led the Panthers with 19 points, including four 3-pointers, and Tray Woodall added 10 points, eight assists and two steals.

“It's tough,” Woodall said. “They're at home, they're feeling the crowd, and they did a good job of hitting shots early. It was tough for us to come back, but we fought.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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