Pitt limits Providence to six points in first 11 minutes of second half

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- There were many theories for Pittsburgh's early second-half domination of Providence.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon felt it was the defense. Friars coach Tim Welsh talked of poor shot selection and the Panthers' home-court advantage.

Here's a different explanation: Whenever Sam Young has a big game, Pitt almost always does, too.

Young scored 22 points and Pittsburgh (No. 24 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) limited Providence to six points in the opening 11 minutes of the second half, allowing the Panthers to pull away for an 82-63 victory Tuesday night.

Ronald Ramon, coming off a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against West Virginia, hit five 3-pointers while scoring 15 points. Physical freshman DeJuan Blair proved a difficult matchup inside for Providence with 15 points and seven rebounds, and Young added seven rebounds.

Pitt (19-5, 7-4 Big East) had alternated wins and losses over its previous seven games before putting away the slumping Friars (13-11, 4-8), who have lost six of seven and are winless in their last eight against the Panthers. The Friars haven't beaten Pitt since January 2001 and haven't won in Pittsburgh since December 1998.

Young was limited to six shots and 10 points in the 55-54 win Thursday against West Virginia, or eight points below his average. He was clearly looking to shoot more against Providence, yet missed only 4-of-14 shots.

Young scored 22 or more points in four of five Pitt games from Jan. 9-23, and Pitt won four of those five. He averaged 12.5 points over his previous four, with Pitt going 2-2.

"Yeah, definitely, I think I was looking to take the shot -- and take the high-percentage shot," Young said. "We came out and I got a couple of easy buckets and it kind of got me into a rhythm, and I took advantage of it."

Ramon was 5-of-7 from 3-point range as Pitt was 5-of-11 beyond the arc and 34-of-58 overall for 58.6 percent, easily the best it has shot in the Big East this season. The Panthers' season best was 67.3 percent against Lafayette during a 96-75 win on Jan. 2.

"I think it was more the guys having confidence in my shot," Ramon said. "Like Sam said, he was looking for the high- percentage shot but he also did a great job of finding guys. All the guys did a great job of finding open guys."

Providence, 1-7 on the road, stayed close for a half, leading 28-27 late in the first half after Jeff Xavier hit three 3-pointers in the opening four minutes. The Friars trailed by only three, 42-39, in the opening minute of the first half.

But the Friars, despite getting 15 points from Marshon Brooks and 14 from Xavier, suddenly lost their offense as Pitt went on runs of 8-0 and 13-0 over the next nine-plus minutes to seize a 63-41 lead.

Blair's basket finished off the 8-0 run that gave Pitt its first double-figure lead at 50-39. After that, Ramon hit a 3-pointer and Benjamin scored consecutive hoops on drives to the basket as Pitt scored 21 of the first 25 points of the half.

"They pushed us around offensively," Welsh said. "Their offense dictated things in the second half. Our guys got stunned for a six- or seven-minute period ... and it's hard to come back from a deficit like that in this building."

Keith Benjamin added 10 points for Pitt, which took advantage of frequent Friars defensive lapses for its highest-scoring game since beating Seton Hall 84-70 on Jan. 12. Pitt, 94-9 at home since the Petersen Evens Center opened in 2002, was held to 69 points or fewer in six of its first 10 conference games.

"Somebody said we haven't had a lot of success here," Welsh said. "I don't feel lonely. Not many teams have had success here."

Providence has allowed an average of 76 points over its last seven games.

"We stopped going inside and got away from our game plan of being methodical," Welsh said. "We couldn't keep answering them."

Providence, in danger of missing the Big East tournament for the second time in three seasons if it can't start winning on the road, also got 10 points from Randall Hanke.

Pitt point guard Levance Fields, out with a broken foot since Dec. 30, resumed practicing this week but did not dress for the game. Previously, he targeted Friday's game at Marquette as the likely date for his return.

"We'll see how he feels [in practice] and where's he at," Dixon said.