Pitt ends losing streak, beats Providence 86-74Pittsburgh's Cameron Wright, front, shoots around Providence's Ron Giplaye, rear, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
PITTSBURGH (AP) Ashton Gibbs scored 22 points - including 14 straight during a late first-half run - as Pittsburgh beat Providence 86-74 on Wednesday night to end an eight-game losing streak.
Trayvon Woodall added 17 points and nine assists in his second game back from groin and abdominal injuries as the Panthers (12-9, 1-7 Big East) won for the first time in five weeks.
Pitt, the defending conference champions, broke out of a five-week shooting slump thanks to Woodall. The junior point guard appeared 100 percent for the first time in nearly two months, pushing the tempo with ease as the Panthers ended their longest-ever losing streak in Big East play.
Vincent Council led the Friars (12-9, 1-7) with 26 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, but Providence lost its third straight by failing to adequately guard the worst offensive in the conference.
Pitt came in last in the league in scoring, 15th in 3-point percentage and 14th in field goal percentage but had little trouble getting out on the break against the Friars. The Panthers shot 49 percent from the floor (32 of 65) and made 55 percent (11 of 20) of their 3-pointers.
Gibbs, the preseason Big East Player of the Year, has struggled mightily during Woodall's absence. Coach Jamie Dixon moved Gibbs to point guard when Woodall went down, and the burden has certainly affected his shot. Gibbs is on pace to set career lows in total shooting percentage, including 3-point shooting percentage, an extended slump his coach blamed on a heavy workload.
Now that Woodall has returned, the workload has lightened, and Gibbs showed flashes of his former brilliance during a spectacular stretch at the end of the first half.
The Panthers led 30-24 when Gibbs got going, hitting a layup to push the advantage to eight. A 3-pointer followed. And another. And another. And another.
The last - a ''heat-check'' bomb from the left wing - gave Pitt a 44-29 lead. The Petersen Events Center crowd, including Pittsburgh Steelers Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton, roared its approval as Pitt took a 46-31 lead into the break.
The Friars simply couldn't keep up despite the best efforts of Council, Bryce Cotton (20 points) and LaDontae Henton (12 points, 11 rebounds). Pitt's lead grew to 61-44 on a 3-pointer by John Johnson.
Playing with a sizable lead for the first time in 2012, the Panthers relaxed briefly and Providence rallied to within 70-63 on a layup by Cotton with 8:02 to go.
The comeback fizzled quickly. Gibbs hit a long jumper, Lamar Patterson (nine points, 11 rebounds) finished on the break off a feed from Woodall and Nasir Robinson (14 points) added a nifty hook to push the lead back to 13 as Pitt ended 35 days of misery and became the final Big East team to enter the win column.