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Pitt downs Villanova to capture Big East title

Mar 6, 2011 - 2:16 AM Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Ashton Gibbs scored 18 points as the fourth- ranked Pittsburgh Panthers won the Big East regular season title outright with a 60-50 victory over the 19th-ranked Villanova Wildcats.

Nasir Robinson, Gilbert Brown and Travon Woodall each tallied nine points for the Panthers (27-4, 15-3 Big East), who will be the No. 1 seed in the Big East tourney for just the third time in school history.

Pittsburgh, which went 23-of-26 from the foul line, tied a school record for most league wins in a season. The 2008-09 team also had 15 conference wins.

"I'm very excited for a whole team, especially our seniors," Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. "We ended the season winning the Big East championship outright on senior night. You can't really do much better than that. We did some great things. First off, winning the conference championship outright in a league that will have about 10 or 11 teams in the NCAA Tournament, nobody has ever been a champion in that kind of league, so that's a first. I'm proud of what our guys accomplished."

Maalik Wayns made six three-pointers en route to a career-high 27 points for the Wildcats (21-10, 9-9), who head into the conference tournament on a four-game slide.

Corey Fisher's three-pointer gave Villanova a 16-14 edge with 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the first half.

Pittsburgh, though, responded with an 8-0 run to take the lead. Lamar Patterson capped the burst with a pair of free throws to make it 22-16. Wayns made two from the line at the other end to make it a four-point game at the half.

"They made all the big plays at the end and we didn't," admitted Villanova coach Jay Wright. "We had some missed free throws in the first half, which could have separated us a little bit."

The Wildcats kept it close early in the second half and took a 30-29 margin on Wayns' jumper with under 13 minutes to play.

But Pitt used an ensuing 14-2 run to go in front for good. Gary McGhee made a tip-in to give the Panthers a 38-30 edge. Fisher responded with a jumper, but it proved to be Villanova's lone points during Pittsburgh's burst.

Patterson made two free throws and Gibbs drained a three-pointer to give the Panthers a 43-32 advantage with seven minutes to go.

Wayns kept the Wildcats alive with a pair of three-pointers, but Pitt responded with eight straight points to seal the victory.

Game Notes

The Wildcats hold a 32-30 lead in the all-time series with the Panthers. Pitt has won eight consecutive home games against Villanova since the 1996-97 season...Pitt was also the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament in 1988 and 2004...Fisher had seven points for Villanova, which went 5-of-10 from the foul line...The Wildcats were without Corey Stokes (hamstring).