Pitt pounds it inside to beat Marquette, 58-51
Pitt Travon Woodall is charged with an offensive foul against Marquette's Jimmy Butler in the second half of last night's game in Milwaukee.
Pitt's Gary McGhee reacts after being called for a foul against Marquette's Jimmy Butler in the first half.
Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom, tries to cut between Pitt's Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown in the first half.
Marquette''s Jimmy Butler, left, drives to the basket against Pittsburgh''s Dante Taylor, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)
Marquette's Dwight Buycks drives to the basket against Pitt's Jermaine Dixon in the first half.
Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom drives to the basket against Pitt's Gary McGheein the first half.
Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom drives to the basket against Pitt's Gary McGhee during the first half.
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MILWAUKEE, Wis. -- Pitt notched a ninth consecutive 20-win season Thursday night, and the Panthers did it by finally getting the monkey off their back by winning a road game at Marquette.
Pitt controlled the 58-51 victory with a stellar defensive effort and an efficient offensive display.
With the victory, Pitt (20-6, 9-4) pulled into a tie with West Virginia for third place in the conference with five games to play in the regular season. The Panthers and Mountaineers are a game ahead of fifth-place Louisville in the standings.
It was Pitt's first victory at Marquette since the Golden Eagles joined the Big East in 2005. The Panthers had lost their three previous games inside the Bradley Center.
Marquette (16-9, 7-6) had the longest current winning streak in the conference at five games.
Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson did the heavy lifting for the Panthers, who took advantage of Marquette's lack of interior size. McGhee put forth a dominating effort, scoring 10 points with 6 blocks and 5 rebounds. Robinson had 10 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Pitt's centers were a combined 8 for 8 from the field. McGhee was 5 for 5 and Dante Taylor 3 for 3.
"We had the size advantage on the inside," McGhee said. "I had the strength advantage. I gathered myself and went up strong. If they double-teamed me, I kicked it outside. It was a great game plan."
McGhee is 10 for 13 from the field in the past three games.
"The team is developing more confidence in me," McGhee said. "I can go over the top and score against any defender that is guarding me. Our offense was good today. It was a good day for us."
Pitt shot 55 percent (23 for 42) from the field. The Panthers shot 68 percent from inside the 3-point arc, shredding Marquette's interior defense for easy baskets throughout the game. They scored 34 of their 58 points in the paint.
"They just annihilated us inside," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "We did a really poor job of playing post defense."
While Pitt's efficient offense was a huge factor in the outcome, its perimeter defense also played a big role.
Marquette entered the game second in NCAA Division I in 3-point shooting at 42.3 percent. Pitt is the best team in the Big East at defending the 3-point shot, however, and the Golden Eagles managed to make just 5 of 19.
Marquette did not make a 3-pointer in the final 18:33. The Golden Eagles missed their final nine 3-point attempts after making 5 of their first 10 attempts.
"We did a good job defending them," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "They didn't have many open looks. We're fortunate because they're the best 3-point shooting team in the country."
Pitt led 31-25 at halftime. The Panthers allowed Marquette to take two one-point leads early in the second half, but Brad Wanamaker put the Panthers ahead for good when he made it 35-34 with 16:19 remaining.
That basket was the start of a 12-5 run that yielded a 47-39 lead with 9:26 remaining. Wanamaker scored six of his 10 points in the run that turned the game in Pitt's favor.
While Wanamaker helped Pitt build its lead, Robinson made sure the Golden Eagles did not draw any closer minutes later. And he did it in the most unlikely of ways. After Marquette cut the lead to five, Robinson made a 3-pointer, only his fourth of the season to restore the eight-point lead with 6:34 remaining.
"I had confidence," Robinson said. "I caught the ball and was ready to shoot."
Dixon said he did not have a problem with the shot because it was in the latter part of the shot clock and Robinson's teammates were having a hard time getting open. Robinson was wide open at the top of the key with his man cheating off and daring him to shoot.
Dixon said Robinson has the green light to shoot a 3-pointer in that situation.
"In that situation, yes he does," Dixon said. "We have had discussions about that. It wasn't the first pass. The ball was reversed and he was wide open."
Marquette managed to cut the lead to five again with less than a minute remaining, but Jermaine Dixon got behind the Marquette press and scored on a breakaway layup with 45 seconds remaining to give Pitt the final margin of victory.
The Panthers were 12 for 20 from the field in the second half in closing out the Golden Eagles. They had 19 assists on 23 field goals.
"Other than the turnovers our offense was about as good as it could be," Dixon said.
First Published February 19, 2010 12:00 am