Tray Woodall scored 14 points and No. 23 Pittsburgh pulled away in the second half, beating South Florida 64-44 on Wednesday night to hand the struggling Bulls their 10th consecutive loss.
Dante Taylor had 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Panthers (22-7, 10-6 Big East), who have won nine of 12. They remained in the middle of the race for a double-bye in next month’s conference tournament.
J.J. Moore added nine points, and 10 players scored in all for the balanced Panthers, who were trailing when they began a 16-0 run with Lamar Patterson’s jumper 4:42 into the second half.
The Big East’s leader in scoring defense, Pitt held South Florida (10-17, 1-14) to 31.9 percent shooting. The conference’s worst scoring offense was held to 50 points or fewer for the eighth time in 15 Big East games. The Panthers have allowed 50 or fewer 10 times this season.
Victor Rudd had 16 points to lead the Bulls, who have lost 14 of 15.
The teams combined to shoot 32.6 percent (14 for 43) in the first half but went divergent directions in the second half. South Florida missed 10 of its first 11 shots after halftime; Pitt made seven of its first 10.
After Patterson finished a fast break for the first points of the second half to give Pitt a 28-25 lead, South Florida went on a 5-0 run to take its final lead. The Panthers responded by scoring the next 16 points – the first five field goals coming from five different players.
Pitt coasted the rest of the way to pull within 11/2 games of second-place Marquette in the Big East.
The top four seeds earn the right to rest until the quarterfinals of the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. It will be the ACC-bound Panthers’ final Big East tournament.
Despite its usual bottom-feeder Big East status, South Florida had won five of its 10 prior conference games against Pitt – including a season sweep last year.
The Bulls took a 14-6 lead 7 1/2 minutes in on a reverse alley-oop by Jawanza Poland, silencing a Petersen Events Center crowd that had watched the Panthers lose three of seven previous Big East homes games this season.
Pitt missed eight of its first 10 shots before Moore’s 3-pointer cut Bulls’ lead in half at 14-11 a minute after Poland’s dunk. Steven Adams’ layup tied it 21/2 minutes later.
Pitt will close out its Big East tenure having won at least 10 conference games in 11 of its final 12 seasons in the league.
The Panthers held a 42-25 edge in rebounds. Adams, a freshman 7-footer, had a career-high five of their six blocks.
In six of its past seven games, Pitt has held the opponents’ field goal percentage to less than 40 percent.
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