PITTSBURGH (AP) -Gilbert Brown scored 19 points and No. 17 Pittsburgh took control early with a 19-2 run Saturday that sent the Panthers to an 83-54 rout of Rutgers and the No. 2 seeding in the Big East tournament.
The Panthers (24-7, 13-5) were picked to finish ninth in the Big East preseason coaches poll, but now get a double bye into the conference quarterfinals - setting themselves up for a possible semifinal matchup against No. 10 West Virginia if both win Thursday in New York.
Pitt followed one of its most uneven performances all season, a last-second 73-71 victory over Providence, with one of its best to win its eighth in nine games.
Freshman Dante Taylor had 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench, while Ashton Gibbs scored 13 and Brad Wanamaker had 12.
The Panthers turned a 5-3 deficit into a 22-7 lead during their big run, scoring 15 consecutive points at one point while holding the Scarlet Knights (15-16, 5-13) scoreless for nearly 5 1/2 minutes. Pitt led by 24 at halftime and by as many as 32 in a second half, during which both teams emptied their benches.
Jermaine Dixon scored on successive possessions to start Pitt's decisive run and Taylor - a 6-foot-9 freshman who played more in the first half than usual - also scored twice.
Dixon was lifted with a sore right foot in the second half and didn't return after scoring 10 points in 12 minutes. He missed the first eight games of the season after twice breaking his right foot, but was coming off a 24-point, 12-rebound performance against Providence.
Brown followed up a scoreless game against the Friars with an excellent two-way game, getting six rebounds and three assists while making 3 of 4 from 3-point range and all six free throws. Pitt was 9 of 22 beyond the arc to Rutgers' 4 of 16.
The Panthers held the Knights to 40.9 percent shooting (18 of 44) while outrebounding them 41-24, and they also had six steals during a game they dominated as much with their defense as their offense. Rutgers was outrebounded 97-52 during losses to Seton Hall and Pittsburgh.
Rutgers looked a step slow at the start and never matched Pitt's intensity or effort on the defensive end during a loss that dropped the Knights into the 14th seed and a Tuesday game in the Big East tournament. Mike Rosario scored 14 points, but he missed eight of 12 shots and was 1 of 7 from 3-point range. Austin Johnson scored 12 points.
Pitt went 17-1 at home and has won 38 of its last 39 in the Petersen Events Center. The Knights are 1-9 on the road this season.
The Associated Press News Service
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