MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- No. 4 Pitt played at West Virginia tonight without starting point guard Ashton Gibbs, who is out for at least ten days with a sprained ligament (MCL) in his left knee, but that didn't seem to matter as the Panthers continued to find a way to win games regardless of who is in the lineup.
The final score was 71-66 but the game wasn't decided until the final minute when the Panthers, who had three players reach double figures, used a 12-8 run to pull away from the Mountaineers.
It was Pitt's sixth consecutive road victory.
West Virginia jumped out to a 12-4 lead as the Panthers struggled early to get into their offense.
But Pitt settled in, got a few steals on defense and converted at the offensive end and that sparked a 12-2 run and the Panthers took their first lead at 16-14 on a lay-up by Nasir Robinson with 6:44 to play in the first half.
A little later Brad Wanamaker made a lay-up, was fouled and converted a free throw to tie the game at 23-23 but Daryl Bryant made two free throws with 1:10 to play and the Mountaineers went into halftime with a 25-23 lead.
Gary McGhee made two free throws with 15:49 to play to give Pitt its first second-half lead, 31-29, but Casey Mitchell responded with a layup to tie the game at 31-31.
McGhee then made a jumphook but Mitchell made two free throws at the other end to tie the game at 33-33 but that is where the Panthers seemed to begin to take over.
Pitt sprinted to a 39-33 lead on 6-0 run, sparked by their transition as they got a layup from Robinson, a dunk by Gilbert Brown and capped by a Lamar Patterson lay-up with 12:44 to play.
Kevin Jones made a free throw and then, after a steal by Mitchell, converted a layup to pull the Mountaineers back to within 39-36.
Dante Taylor made 1-of-2 free throws with 11:17 to play then the two teams traded layups, but Dalton Pepper pulled the Mountaineers back to within one point at 42-41 with 10:10 to play with a 3-pointer from the corner.
Then Denis Kilicli, who had a game-high 19 points, abused Pitt center Gary McGhee for most of the night with a bevy of post moves and hook shots, tied the game at 43-43 with a left-handed hook shot.
After a lay-up by McGhee, West Virginia took a lead with 8:30 to play on another 3-pointer from the corner by Pepper.
But Pitt came right back with baskets by Travon Woodall and Wanamaker to regain a 49-46 lead with 7:39 to play. Dante Taylor was then fouled by Pepper and made two free throws to push the Panthers lead to 51-46.
Kevin Jones then made a layup but Woodall hit a 3-pointer from the wing to increase the Panthers lead to six points, 54-48, with 6:30 to play.
Casey Mitchell hit a long 3-pointer from the top of the key with 5:20 to play to pull the Mountaineers to within 55-53 but Wanamaker drove into the lane then dished to a wide open McGhee for a dunk and a 57-53 lead with 4:50 to play.
West Virginia then again went down low to Kilicli, who converted a left-handed hook shot, but the Panthers again answered with two free throws from Brown.
Kilicli then converted a lay-up, was fouled by McGhee and hit a foul shot to pull to within, 59-58, with 4:00 to play.
But West Virginia failed to get a stop again and Brown drove the lane and made an easy layup for a 61-58 Pitt lead with 3:44 to play. Wanamaker extended the lead to 63-58 with a layup with 1::50 to play.
Jones made a lay-up to get the Mountaineers back to within 63-60 but the Panthers again answered, this time with a lay-up and foul shot by Brown with 1:10 to play and the Panthers iced the game at the free throw line.
Pitt, which outrebounded West Virginia, 33-20, was led by McGhee and Robinson, who scored 13 points each, and got 11 from Woodall.
The Mountaineers (15-8, 6-5 in the Big East) will next play DePaul (6-16, 0-10) Saturday, the same day Pitt (22-2, 10-1) will play at Villanova (19-4, 7-3).
Paul Zeise: email@example.com or 412-263-1720 First Published February 8, 2011 2:15 AM