Ashton Gibbs (File Photo)
Jan. 29, 2011
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Ashton Gibbs scored 24 points and No. 2 Pittsburgh avoided a second straight upset by holding off pesky Rutgers 65-62 on Saturday night.
The Panthers (20-2, 8-1 Big East) scored 12 of their last 15 points from the free throw line and hit only one basket in the final 7:03 - a long 3-pointer by Gibbs with 55 seconds to play - in posting their 10th straight 20-win season.
Jonathan Mitchell, Mike Coburn and Robert Lumpkins had 12 points apiece for Rutgers (12-9, 3-6), which saw a potential game-tying 3-point attempt by Dane Miller hit off the backboard with less than seven seconds to play.
Pittsburgh got the rebound and ran out the clock, disappointing a raucous, near-sellout crowd at the Rutgers Athletic Center.
Rutgers' previous biggest upset came against then-No. 6 West Virginia in 1982, and coach Mike Rice and his Scarlet Knights came close to topping that against Rice's former mentor Jamie Dixon, only to be done in by Gibbs and second-half foul problems.
Rutgers picked up its seventh foul less than six minutes into the second half and Pittsburgh capitalized, converting 18 of 22 free throws in the final 20 minutes.
Pittsburgh struggled against Rutgers' tight defense and it didn't take the lead for good until McGhee converted a three-point play with 11:46 left.
Rutgers never went away and it got within a point at 58-57 when Coburn hit the second of two free throws 1:27 to play.
That's when Gibbs struck from long range. With the shot clock running down, he hit a 25-foot shot from right in front of the Panthers' bench for a 61-57 lead.
After Miller made 1 of 2 free throws, Gibbs was fouled immediately and sank both free throws for a 63-58 lead.
Coburn hit two free throws with 35.7 seconds left and then Rutgers forced Lamar Patterson into a traveling call in the backcourt. Lumpkins, whose previous college high was 11 at New Mexico State, hit a layup with 20.9 seconds to close the gap to 63-62.
Wanamaker was fouled as soon as Pittsburgh put the ball in play and made both free throws, and Miller's long-range attempt was well off target, giving the Panthers their 11th win in 12 games against Rutgers.
Rice was an assistant under Dixon before taking a job at Robert Morris and eventually coming to Rutgers this season.
The Panthers, who were held to a season-low 51 points in a loss to Notre Dame on Monday, continued their offensive woes in the first half, hitting 7 of 24 shots (29.2 percent) in falling behind 28-27.
Gibbs was Pittsburgh's offense, scoring 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting, including three 3-pointers.
Rutgers wasn't much better, shooting roughly 37 percent. However, the Scarlet Knights made four of their first five shots in never trailing in the half.