For one night, it seemed like old times at Pitt. For the first time in a long time, the Panthers looked like the team the college basketball world thought they would be.
Ashton Gibbs was raining down 3-pointers on the opposition. Tray Woodall was orchestrating the offense flawlessly, and the gritty inside players were busy dominating the offensive boards.
It all added up to Pitt's first victory in 35 days. The Panthers beat Providence, 86-74, at Petersen Events Center to snap an eight-game losing streak. It was Pitt's first victory since a Dec. 20 win against Saint Francis, Pa.
"Our guys put in a lot of extra time," coach Jamie Dixon said. "The guys wanted to come in the morning and do stuff before practice. They've been working hard. It was good to see them rewarded."
- Game: Pitt (12-9, 1-7 Big East) vs. No. 9 Georgetown (16-3, 6-2), Petersen Events Center.
- When: 4 p.m. Saturday.
- TV: ESPN.
The Panthers (12-9, 1-7) finally found their shooting groove against the Friars (12-9, 1-7), making 11 3-pointers. It was their most 3-pointers in a game since a Dec. 6 victory against VMI.
Gibbs had five of them and finished with 22 points. Woodall, playing in his second game after sitting out a month with an abdominal injury, had four more and finished with 17 points.
Woodall did not hurt the Friars with just his shooting. He also dished out nine assists and had one turnover in 29 minutes.
"They're a totally different team with him in there," Providence coach Ed Cooley said. "Everyone is in their roles, in their comfort zone. They're a good basketball team when he's on the floor."
Woodall's presence means Gibbs can concentrate on coming off screens from his shooting-guard position. It also gives the Panthers another much-needed outside shooting threat, and knowing their captain is in charge has a calming influence.
"It moves guys to different spots," Dixon said. "He finds guys at the right time, delivers it to the right spot. Those guys are hard to find. There aren't a lot of them out there. We were without our guy. That's what happened. No excuses. We have to build off it and keep getting better.
"The players have confidence in him. That's something you can't put into words or quantify it. The players have confidence when he is on the floor."
The Panthers shot 49 percent from the field, their highest shooting percentage in a game since shooting 50 percent against Saint Francis. And, when the shots were not going in early, offensive rebounding allowed the Panthers to build a lead. The Panthers had eight of their 14 offensive rebounds in the first half before Gibbs and Woodall heated up and totaled 18 second-chance points.
Everything, it appears, has clicked with Woodall back in place.
"You can see it in practice," Dixon said. "You see it in games. It's different. It's amazing he's back playing at this level so quick. He was tremendous. I thought it spread. I think it will continue to spread as we continue to work. We have to have a good day tomorrow to build off it because this is a starting point."
The Panthers were in a tussle with the Friars until Gibbs put on a shooting clinic in the final minutes of the first half. Gibbs made four 3-pointers in a span of 1:55, and a six-point lead with three minutes remaining grew to 15 by the time the buzzer sounded. Gibbs' final two 3-pointers in the run came 15 seconds apart.
"That was the game," Cooley said.
Gibbs scored 14 of his 16 first-half points in the final 3:54 before halftime. It was the third time all season Gibbs made five 3-pointers but the first since a Dec. 6 victory against VMI.
"I was feeling it," Gibbs said. "Once the first shot went in, I felt good. My teammates gave me open opportunities, and I took advantage of them."
Woodall picked up where Gibbs left off early in the second half. He made two 3-pointers in the first four minutes. The second gave the Panthers a 54-39 lead. Woodall was 4 for 4 from behind the arc in the game.
"I've got a great group of guys I'm playing with," Woodall said. "They found me in open areas. I had my legs early."
Woodall was 0 for 5 from the field and did not score in his first game back against Louisville Saturday night.
The Panthers would have enjoyed a blowout had it not been for Providence guard Vincent Council, who scored 26 points. The Friars made things interesting and cut the lead to seven with 7:59 left, but the Panthers did not allow Council to score in the final 12:32.
NOTES -- Nasir Robinson also scored in double figures with 14 points. ... Lamar Patterson led the Panthers with 11 rebounds, including four offensive boards. ... The Friars had 15 offensive rebounds. Only Rutgers and Robert Morris had more offensive rebounds against Pitt this season.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published January 26, 2012 5:00 AM