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Gibbs helps No. 2 Pitt stave off Rutgers

Jan 30, 2011 - 5:25 AM Piscataway, NJ (Sports Network) - Ashton Gibbs scored 24 points, none bigger than a three-pointer in the final minute Saturday that helped No. 2 Pittsburgh stave off an upset with a 65-62 win over Rutgers.

Gibbs buried the shot from the left side with 55 seconds remaining to give the Panthers a 61-57 lead.

Rutgers, trying to knock off a top-five team for the first time in school history, got as close as 63-62 when Mike Coburn drove the baseline and found Robert Lumpkins underneath for a layup with 20.9 seconds left.

But Brad Wanamaker hit a pair of free throws at the other end -- Pitt made its last nine attempts from the stripe -- and Dane Miller missed a three-point try for Rutgers in the final seconds.

Gary McGhee had 13 points and eight rebounds before fouling out in the final minute and the Panthers (20-2, 8-1 Big East) rebounded from Monday's loss to Notre Dame with their 10th win in 11 games.

"I really like how we made plays at the end. I really like how we made free throws," said Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon.

Lumpkins, Coburn and Jonathan Mitchell all scored 12 points to lead the Scarlet Knights (12-9, 3-6), who have dropped two straight.

"We showed a lot of toughness, a lot of fight," said Rutgers head coach Mike Rice. "Pitt keeps swinging, and they don't stop."

The highest-ranked team Rutgers ever defeated was No. 6 West Virginia on February 27, 1982. The Scarlet Knights, in front of a rollicking home crowd, had a chance to make a much bigger statement on Saturday.

The Panthers only trailed for 18 total minutes in their first eight conference games this season, but they didn't take their first lead in this one until McGhee's layup made it 29-28 with 1:09 gone in the second half.

Indeed, the Scarlet Knights were in it all the way till the end. Lumpkins drained a three-pointer to get them within 56-54 with 3:43 remaining, and after Gilbert Brown hit two free throws at the other end, Dane Miller threw down a thunderous baseline dunk to keep Rutgers within two.

But Pitt held on down the stretch -- despite Brown missing a dunk on a 3-on-1 fastbreak when he stuffed the ball into the front of the rim.

Coburn made 1-of-2 at the line to get Rutgers within 58-57, but Gibbs followed with his clutch three-pointer, knocking it down with Miller barely coming out to contest it.

"In a game like this pretty much every shot we make is going to be big for us," said Dixon. "[Gibbs' shot] was big and we showed patience."

Gibbs matched a career-high with his 24 points. He scored 15 of them in the first half -- and may have been the only reason Pitt remained in the game early on.

The Scarlet Knights opened the game with a 10-3 run and never trailed on the way to a 28-27 lead at halftime. They held sway for the duration of the half despite shooting just 37 percent from the floor.

The reasons? Rutgers took care of the ball, playing without a turnover for the first 12:51 of the game. And Pitt couldn't buy a shot. Gibbs shot 5-of-9 for 15 points in the half, but the rest of the team was just 2-of-15 on the way to a dismal 29 percent performance.

"This just goes to show you that we can play with anyone in the country when we come out and have the right attitude," Rutgers' Mitchell said. "This one hurts because we let this one slip away."

Game Notes

Pitt tied the all-time series at 23-23...The Panthers have won 12 of the last 14 meetings, including the last six played in Piscataway...Pitt shot just 36 percent in the game, while Rutgers shot 39 percent.