Panthers deny Friars' upset bid


NEW YORK (AP) -- Pittsburgh showed why it is the best defensive
team in the Big East, holding Providence to one field goal over the
final 5½ minutes in a 67-59 victory Thursday that sent the
fifth-ranked Panthers to the semifinals of the Big East tournament.

Donatas Zavackas had 16 points to lead the Panthers (24-4), who
will play Boston College on Friday night as they try to reach the
championship game for the third straight year.

Boston College (18-10), which beat St. John's 82-75 in overtime
in the quarterfinals, did not play Pittsburgh this season.

The Friars (16-13) did a good defensive job on the Panthers, and
they used an 8-0 run to take a 51-49 lead with 5:36 to play on a
layup by Ryan Gomes.

The Panthers answered with a 9-0 run that showed their first
offensive sparks of the second half. Brandin Knight started it with
a drive with 4:41 left, his first points of the second half, and
Julius Page added a layup 33 seconds later, his first points of the
second half.

By the time Knight made two free throws with 2:50 left to give
Pittsburgh a 58-51 lead, Providence had come up empty on four
straight possessions.

A jumper by Donnie McGrath with 1:15 left brought Providence to
61-57, but the Panthers went 6-for-6 from the free throw line over
the final 24 seconds to seal their seventh straight win.

Knight had 15 points for the Panthers, who allowed just 60
points a game this season, while Jaron Brown had 13 and Page eight.

McGrath had 17 points, all but two on 3-pointers, for the
Friars, while Gomes, who was double-teamed and forced away from his
favorite spot on the block, had 16 points and 11 rebounds. Gomes,
who entered the game averaging 18.7 points and 9.6 rebounds, was
6-for-12 from the field, and the Friars shot 35.2 percent
(19-for-54) and committed 18 turnovers.

Providence snapped a five-game losing streak in the Big East
tournament with the 73-50 opening-round win over West Virginia. The
Friars, who probably will play in the NIT, had won three straight
and six of seven.