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Pitt pummels Big East foe Providence, ends eight-game skid at Pete

| Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

The losing streak is over. Now Pitt is ready to start heading in a different direction.

Senior guard Ashton Gibbs went on a 3-point barrage in the first half, and Tray Woodall looked like his pre-injury self to propel Pitt to an 86-74 win over visiting Providence on Wednesday night.

"It feels good," Gibbs said. "We're going to hold our heads high right now, but at the same time we've got Georgetown on Saturday. We've got to move on."

The win, its first since Dec. 20, snapped an eight-game losing streak for Pitt (12-9, 1-7 Big East) — its longest in 18 years — and provided a glimmer of hope.

Gibbs scored 14 points of his team-high 22 points in a three-minute span of the first half. Woodall, the junior point guard, shrugged off his injury rust to score 17 points — including 4 for 4 from 3-point range — with nine assists and one turnover in 29 minutes.

"They are a totally different team (with Woodall)," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "Everybody is in their role. Everybody is in their comfort zone."

Woodall ran the Pitt offense to a 22-assist, 10-turnover ratio. He had five assists and no turnovers in the second half.

"I had legs early," Woodall said. "It was great to get a win under our belt. It's great to be out here on the court with my team."

Pitt led, 46-31, at halftime and led by at least seven points the rest of the way to end a skid that had plunged the Panthers from No. 15 in the AP Top 25 to No. 16 in the Big East.

Gibbs, the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, single-handedly took over late in the first half, scoring 14 points in a 3:05 span.

"That was the game," Cooley said.

Gibbs, who had missed 40 of his 55 3-point attempts during Pitt's slump, finished 8 of 17 from the field, including 5 of 11 from behind the arc.

Providence guard Vincent Council finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Bryce Cotton added 20 — all in the second half — for the Friars (12-9, 1-7).

Pitt committed only 10 turnovers — it had averaged 16 in the past six games — and its 22 assists were the most since beating VMI on Dec. 6, a span of 11 games. Pitt also went 11 for 20 from 3-point range.

"It's amazing he's back and playing at this level so quick," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said of Woodall. "He was tremendous, and I thought it spread. I think it will continue to spread as we continue to work."

Gibbs, who missed four of his first five shots, hit a short pull-up jumper to give Pitt a 32-24 lead with 3:55 to play in the first half.

Gibbs hit a 3-pointer a minute later, another 48 seconds later, and then another 53 seconds after that from the right wing for a 41-29 lead. After J.J. Moore blocked Gerard Coleman's layup attempt moments later to start a fast-break the other way, Gibbs hit another 3-pointer from the same spot to give Pitt a 44-29 lead.

"I was feeling it," Gibbs said. "Once one shot went in, I just felt good and continued to take the rest."

"This is a starting point," Dixon said. "This is one. What matters tomorrow is our practice. We've got to build off this."

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