Friday , Mar , 10 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Pitt pulls away from West Virginia to reach Big East semis

New York, NY (Sports Network) – Aaron Gray had 19 points along with 15
rebounds and 15th-ranked Pittsburgh pulled away down the stretch to record a
68-57 victory over No. 19 West Virginia in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal
at Madison Square Garden.

Sam Young finished with 14 points and 11 boards and the Panthers (23-6) used
strong defense and a dominating effort on the glass to deal their bitter
rivals their fifth defeat in seven games.

Pittsburgh, which dropped to the tournament’s sixth seed after back-to-back
losses to close out its regular season, held the Mountaineers to just 34
percent shooting and produced a whopping 44-25 rebounding advantage.

“We needed to take charge and win the boards, and we clearly did that in the
second half,” said Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon.

The Panthers will attempt to reach the Big East title game for the fifth time
in six years when it squares off against No. 2 Villanova on Friday.

Kevin Pittsnogle led third-seeded West Virginia (20-10) with 22 points. Mike
Gansey had 10 with five rebounds, but was forced out of the game with under
eight minutes remaining due to an abdominal injury.

The Mountaineers struggled with Gansey on the bench. After Pittsburgh’s
Levance Fields sank a jumper with 6:39 left to snap a 49-49 tie, WVU missed
its next three shots and Young scored inside to make it a four-point game
heading into the final five minutes.

Fields found Ronald Ramon cutting to the basket with 2:40 left to extend the
Panthers’ lead to 57-51, but Pittsnogle sank a triple less than a minute later
to cut the deficit to three.

West Virginia got even closer when Patrick Beilein hit a three with just over
a minute to go to pull his team within 59-57, but the Mountaineers failed to
make a bucket the rest of the way. Pittsburgh made 7-of-8 free throws in the
final minute to preserve the win.

“I admire the way (the Panthers) play and how smart they play defensively,”
said West Virginia head coach John Beilein.

The Panthers trailed 33-24 early in the second half but outscored the
Mountaineers 16-5 over the next seven minutes to forge ahead. A putback by
Young tied the contest at 38-38 and Antonio Graves scored on another second-
chance opportunity with 12:43 left to sent Pitt in front.

“It goes to show how tough this team is and how much we believe in each
other,” said Gray of the comeback. “No one gave up. No one had the thought in
their mind that we weren’t going to win.”

The Mountaineers opened the game on an 8-2 run and quickly built a double-
digit lead after Darris Nichols followed a Pittsnogle three-pointer with a
steal and layup to put WVU up 19-8 with under 8 1/2 minutes left in the
opening period.

Pittsburgh missed 10 of its first 12 shots from the field and fell behind
22-10 after Gansey knocked down a triple with 6:09 remaining before
intermission. However, the Panthers closed out the half strong to get back
into it.

Down 27-15 with 3 1/2 minutes left, Gray scored inside and Fields hit a three-
pointer to jump start a 7-2 run that brought Pittsburgh within 29-22 late in
the half.

Game Notes

Carl Krauser recorded 10 points, six rebounds and six assists for the
Panthers, who shot 51.7 percent in the second half…Pittsnogle ended 5-of-11
from three-point range…The Panthers reached the Big East championship game
four straight years from 2001-04 but were beaten by Villanova in last year’s
quarters…The teams split two regular-season meetings, with WVU besting the
Panthers 67-62 in Morgantown and Pitt posting a 57-53 decision on its home