CINCINNATI (AP) — Tray Woodall scored 14 points and led a late surge that sent No. 23 Pitt to a 62-52 victory over No. 17 Cincinnati on Saturday, keeping the momentum going for one of the Big East’s hottest teams.
The Panthers (20-5, 8-4) have won seven of their last eight games overall and four of their last five on the road. They beat No. 6 Syracuse 65-55 a week ago, vaulting them into the Top 25.
Woodall hit a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer during a 7-0 run that put Pitt ahead to stay with 3:21 left. The conference’s stingiest defense held Cincinnati (18-6, 6-5) without a field goal over the final 9 minutes, 21 seconds.
The Bearcats managed only seven free throws during that stretch. Sean Kilpatrick led Cincinnati with 16 points, but had only one free throw in the second half, when he missed all seven shots from the field. He came into the game averaging 18.3 points, third-best in the Big East.
Cincinnati missed its last 14 shots and made only 30.8 percent from the field, a season low.
The Bearcats were coming off a 54-50 loss at Providence on Wednesday night that ended when Kilpatrick lost his dribble at midcourt while Cincinnati set up for a final shot.
Both teams rely on their depth, using 10 players regularly. Cincinnati’s depth on the frontline was tested by an injury and foul trouble. Forward Justin Jackson played only 7 minutes before leaving with an injury. He came out at halftime and tried to shoot and shuffled his feet, but favored his left leg and quickly gave up.
Center Cheikh Mbodj went to the bench with his fourth foul at the 16:25 mark of the second half, leaving the Bearcats’ frontline further depleted. Pitt’s balance and depth pulled out a close game throughout — neither team led by double digits until the closing seconds.
The game started as a defensive slog, which was expected. Pitt leads the Big East in defense, allowing only 54.5 points per game. Cincinnati is fourth, giving up 58.6.
Kilpatrick has been the Bearcats’ only consistent scoring threat lately, with point guard Cashmere Wright recovering from a sprained knee. Kilpatrick carried his team through the first half, scoring 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting for a 31-26 lead.
Pitt clamped down on Kilpatrick in the second half, but couldn’t make up much ground at the outset. Wright hit a 3-pointer for his first points of the game, and reserve point guard Ge’Lawn Guyn had a three-point play that kept Cincinnati ahead 40-34.
Kilpatrick kept missing — he even shot an airball on a 3-point try — and Pitt got its chance.
Seven-foot center Steven Adams took advantage of Cincinnati’s problems up front. He made a one-hand shot near the basket, and Woodall hit a long 3 with the shot clock running down during an eight-point run that put Pitt up 47-45 with 6:14 left, the Panthers’ first lead of the second half. Adams finished with 13 points.
Woodall hit a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer that made it 54-48 with 3:21 left. The Panthers made all six of their free throw attempts in the final minute to hold on.
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