PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- After watching Providence spurt to a four-point lead with 90 seconds left in the game, Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon called his players together, smiled and told them: "It's time."
Gary McGhee muscled in a layup underneath. Travon Woodall hit a 3-pointer to give the Panthers the lead. McGhee hit two free throws and Woodall made two more to help No. 5 Pittsburgh hold on against feisty Providence for an 83-79 win Tuesday night.
"Coach Dixon called a timeout and said, 'We're going to pull this through," said Woodall, who also had an assist and a key rebound with 11 seconds left. "And we did that."
Gilbert Brown scored 17 points in the first half, but he was one of four Panthers in foul trouble in the second and finished with 19. That meant Pitt (14-1, 2-0 Big East) needed help from someone else, and Woodall and McGhee were the ones who came through.
After trailing most of the game, Providence (11-5, 0-3) scored eight straight points to take a 76-72 lead with 90 seconds left. Pitt took a 77-76 lead on Woodall's 3-pointer with 35 seconds left, then Friars guard Gerard Coleman put a 3-pointer off the back of the rim and McGhee outjumped two Friars for his ninth rebound.
McGhee, who scored all of his 13 points in the second half, grabbed a big rebound and made two free throws with 18 seconds left.
"I've never had all of those guys in foul trouble," Dixon said. "Our strength in numbers really showed tonight. I couldn't remember who fouled out and who didn't foul out, we had so many fouls."
Marshon Brooks scored 28 points for the Friars. Vincent Council had 13 points, 10 assists and six of Providence's season-high 14 steals. But he also had five turnovers and he missed two free throws with 11 seconds left that turned meaningful when Brooks hit a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game with 4 seconds remaining.
Pitt's visit brought back memories of the Friars' victory in 2009 over the top-ranked Panthers -- the biggest win of coach Keno Davis' career. But last season PC fell to 12-19, with a 4-14 mark in the conference that included a season-ending 11-game losing streak.
"We're not as good as Pittsburgh. We're not as good as Syracuse. But we're not as far away as people thought at the beginning of the year," Davis said. "We're not going to be happy with being one of the teams trying to upset Top 20 teams. We're trying to get there. I don't have any doubt we will. I have some doubts that we'll get there this year."
Pittsburgh moved up one spot in The Associated Press Top 25 this week after opening its conference schedule with a victory over then-No. 4 Connecticut. But the Panthers, whose only loss this season was to then-No. 11 Tennessee, had more trouble than expected from the school that finished 15th in the 16-team Big East last season.
Brown started 5 of 6 from 3-point range, with his only miss coming on a hurried buzzer-beater to end the half. But he picked up his third foul early in the second and his fourth with 12:29 left in the game.
Pitt led 72-68 with 2:42 left when the Friars scored eight in a row, thanks in part to two offensive foul calls against Brad Wanamaker. Providence got a 3-pointer by Duke Mondy and a layup from Kadeem Batts before Brooks hit a fallaway 3-pointer with 90 seconds left for the Friars' biggest lead of the game, 76-72.
But McGhee scored underneath, then Woodall hit a 3-pointer with 35 seconds to play to give the Panthers the lead for good.
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