PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — Pitt defeated St. John’s, 73-59, Tuesday afternoon to advance to the second round of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Panthers will play Georgetown Wednesday at 2 p.m.

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“I think we’ve gotten better the last couple of weeks and it’s a good sign as we go forward here,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said after the game. “We’ve got to defend and I think we did that today and we’ll continue to do that as we go forward tomorrow.”

Pitt was led by seniors Ashton Gibbs and Nasir Robsin, who combined to score 35 points. Gibbs scored 20 and Robinson added 15 and eight rebounds.

“The past three years we had a lot more success during the regular season,” Gibbs said. “But it was a good win for us today. It started on the defensive end and we let it carry to the offense. We did a good job of moving the ball and it’s something we’ve just got to continue to do throughout the tournament.”

St. John’s led Pitt by six points, 26-20, with 5 minutes, 9 seconds remaining in the first half before Pitt closed on a 13-2 run. The run was powered by Gibbs and Robinson.

Gibbs scored seven straight points to give the Panthers a 27-26 lead and Lamar Patterson followed with a 3-pointer. Robinson finished the half with a free throw and then an alley-opp dunk from Tray Woodall for a 33-28 halftime lead.

“I think we like to play a fast-paced game but I think when the pace switched we were rushing a little bit,” St. John’s  forward Moe Harkless said of Pitt’s run to end the half. “A lot of shots that we took during that time were bad shots and I think if we would have slowed down and took our time, I think we would have been able to overcome that hump.”

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That momentum carried into the second half, as Pitt opened up an 11-point lead in the opening five minutes. St. John’s made just one field goal in the opening 6 minutes, 29 seconds of the second half.

The Pitt lead grew to 15 points, 62-57, with under six minutes to play after two J.J. Moore free throws en route to a 73-59 win.

Patterson scored nine points and pulled in five rebounds while John Johnson and Moore added eight points as other high scorers for Pitt.

The Red Storm got little production outside of Harkless, who dropped 25 points on the Panthers. He played all 40 minutes of the game and shot 10-of-16 from the field while pulling in nine rebounds.

D’Angelo Harrison was the only other St. John’s player in double-figures with 12 points but shot just 4-of-18 on the afternoon.

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Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog