EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Levance Fields came up big down the stretch and helped No. 10 Pittsburgh pull out a key road win without the injured Aaron Gray.
Fields scored all 15 of his points in the second half—including seven in the final 2 1/2 minutes—to help the short-handed Panthers (24-4, 11-2 Big East) hold off Seton Hall 71-68 Monday night.
“He was key and really hit some big shots,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “He got some good screens and got some good looks.”
Levon Kendall had 14 points and eight rebounds, and Sam Young added 11 points for the Panthers, who improved to 6-0 on the road in conference play.
“I don’t know if there are any other teams in the country that are 6-0 in conference games on the road,” Dixon said. “It’s a great sign of our decision making and recognition of what other teams are trying to do to us.”
The victory was the 100th for Dixon (100-26), who reached the milestone faster than any coach in school history.
Eugene Harvey scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half, Jamar Nutter had 19 and Brian Laing added 12 points and eight rebounds for Seton Hall (12-14, 3-10). The Pirates have lost five straight, eight of nine and eight straight conference games.
“I thought our kids came out very ready to win the game, regardless of whether Aaron Gray played or not,” Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said. “We’ve been playing our best basketball of late, but we came up short. I thought we’d get over the hump tonight.”
The Pirates, who fell behind by 14 with 5 1/2 minutes to go, pulled to 64-61 on Paul Gause’s tip-in with 1:20 remaining.
“We got a little complacent at the end,” Kendall said. “They started making shots, we started missing a few things. They were able to come back and press. We did a decent job of handling that and a decent job of knocking down free throws at the end.”
Fields, who made five free throws in the final minute, hit two to push Pitt’s lead to 67-61 with 49 seconds left. After Harvey’s layup pulled Seton Hall to within three with 16 seconds remaining, Fields made two more from the line less than a second later.
Nutter then hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to pull the Pirates to 70-68 with about 5 seconds remaining, and Fields made 1 of 2 free throws to make it a three-point game. Nutter’s desperation 3 from inside half court at the buzzer bounced high off the rim.
“It wasn’t like they lost. We had to win this one,” Dixon said. “We had to do the things that we do for 40 minutes.”
Pittsburgh moved one-half game ahead of Georgetown for first place in the conference, and visits the Hoyas on Saturday.
Gray, who sprained his left ankle in the final minute of a win over Washington on Saturday, was on the bench in warmups with a protective boot on his foot.
“He wanted to try and give it a go tonight,” Dixon said. “Just seeing the ankle and the discoloration, I just never felt that he was going to be able to play. We did the right thing keeping him out.”
The Panthers said playing without the 7-foot Gray, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, didn’t limit them against the Pirates.
“He doesn’t play 40 minutes a game, so he’s out of there some of the time,” said Kendall, who had extended time at center. “I play the 5 whenever he’s out of the game. All year I’ve been doing that, so it wasn’t really a big thing for me.
“We were prepared for it, we’ve been doing it in practice. We were able to adjust and make up for his absence.”
After missing their one free-throw attempt in the opening period, the Pirates made their charge by going 16-for-19 from the line in the second half.
The teams traded baskets for the first 5 1/2 minutes of the second half, before Seton Hall pulled to 39-37 on two free throws each by Harvey and Nutter. Keith Benjamin’s dunk pushed Pitt’s lead back to four.
Harvey’s basket with 11:01 left cut the Pirates’ deficit to 43-41, and the Panthers had a shot-clock violation on the ensuing possession. Gause missed two free throws for Seton Hall, and Young made consecutive baskets, converting a 3-point play on the second, to push the lead to 48-41 with 9:09 left in the game.
After Harvey made two free throws to cut the Pirates’ deficit to five, the Panthers scored nine straight points—the last five by Fields—to take a 59-45 lead with 5:32 left.
H.D. Carlson was the previous fastest to 100 wins for Pitt, reaching the milestone in his 140th game—on Feb. 22, 1930. Dixon is also tied for 15th-fastest in NCAA history.
Young’s fastbreak dunk with 1:17 left capped Pitt’s 7-0 run for a 30-23 lead. However, Harvey’s buzzer-beater from half court cut the Pirates’ deficit to four at the break.