for this game

Gray too much on the inside as Pitt stops Providence

Feb 11, 2007 - 6:06 AM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Providence was looking for a big win to put on its NCAA Tournament resume. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a Gray day.

Big East Conference preseason Player of the Year Aaron Gray scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half as No. 6 Pittsburgh continued its best start in league history with a 74-68 victory over the Friars.

Antonio Graves and Mike Cook added 11 points each for the Panthers (22-3, 10-1 Big East), who have won five straight and 12 of their last 13.

Gray, who played just eight minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, had eight points - all in the lane - during a 15-3 run early in the second half that turned a six-point deficit for Pittsburgh into a 51-45 edge with 11:50 left in the game.

"I was really working hard for post position, getting it pretty close to the basket, and the guys did a great job of feeding me the ball," Gray said. "I was frustrated from having to sit out the whole first half. That's my fault because of stupid mental mistakes. I was playing hard though."

After Providence pulled within 53-52 on Herbert Hill's layup with 9:20 left, Gray converted a pair of layups as Pittsburgh regained a five-point edge. The Friars did not get closer than three thereafter.

"He fought through (foul trouble) and played very well," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said of Gray. "It was hard with the foul trouble he was in, but it was good to see. We got the ball inside and he finished well."

Gray shot 10-of-17 from the floor and added seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Levon Kendall secured 10 rebounds for the Panthers, who improved to 14-1 at the Petersen Events Center this season and 62-7 over the last four years.

"He's tough down there," Providence coach Tim Welsh said. "He's got the whole combination: size, strength, experience, quickness, now that he's in better shape. He's a smart player and is in a good system. They know when to look for him.

"We took away the threes and they went inside. It's pick your poison."

Providence held a 41-33 edge on the boards, including 16 offensive rebounds, but converted just 7-of-16 from the free-throw line.

"They beat us on the boards," Dixon said. "They're one of the few teams in the league with a higher rebounding total than us."

"You can't go 7-of-16 from the free-throw line on the road and beat the No. 6 team in the country," Welsh said. "You've got to play a pretty good game, and that's part of playing a good game, free-throw shooting. But we stayed in the basketball game because of toughness. But it's a loss."

Hill and Sharaud Curry scored 20 points apiece for Providence (15-8, 5-5), which dropped to 1-3 against ranked opponents this season.

"They're a very good young team," Dixon said. "I think this is an NCAA Tournament team if they finish out the way I think they will. I was looking at their schedule, and I truly believe this is an NCAA Tournament team."

Gray scored nine points as Pittsburgh jumped to an early 15-7 lead 4 1/2 minutes into the game. Providence immediately responded with a 13-5 run, getting seven points from Curry, for a 20-17 lead with 10 minutes left.