PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Carl Krauser's most important assist for Pittsburgh (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) in a comeback victory over Marquette came off the
court. He made certain backup Antonio Graves didn't get discouraged
after being pushed deep down the bench.
Graves, seldom-used most of the season, and Krauser led a
decisive 10-0 run late in the game and the Panthers overcame a
sluggish start and a 12-point deficit to beat Marquette 77-71
Graves scored 19 points in easily his best game of the season
and Krauser added 16, including five in a matter of seconds after
it was announced he had moved past mentor Brandin Knight on Pitt's
career scoring list.
Aaron Gray had 13 points and 20 rebounds -- the most by a Pitt
player since Gerald Jordan's 20 against West Virginia 10 years ago
this month -- to help Pitt to a 45-30 edge on the boards that proved
decisive during the turnaround second half.
Pitt (17-1, 6-1 Big East) improved to 13-0 at home with
successive wins over Syracuse and Marquette after losing for the
first time, at St. John's, last Saturday.
Graves' outside shooting -- he was 3-of-4 on 3-pointers -- played
a key role, just as Krauser predicted it would. Krauser didn't know
when Graves would break out, but was certain he would.
"Honestly, it's been a tough year for me," said Graves, a
junior guard who averaged 7.8 points while starting all but two
games last season. "I've been trying to stick with it and keep
grinding and do whatever I had to do to succeed. Carl really helped
Graves had scored only 11 points in Pitt's previous nine games.
But he came in early in the game after coach Jamie Dixon briefly
benched all of his starters with Pitt down 13-5 and wound up
playing 24 minutes.
"We stressed getting off to a good start and being ready to go,
but my advice didn't go very far," Dixon said.
Graves' 19 points were a career high, topping the 18 he had
against Penn State last season. Graves, whose playing time was cut
by the emergence of freshman guard Levance Fields, hadn't scored in
double figures since doing so twice in Pitt's first three games.
Marquette (15-6, 5-3), the only one of the Big East's five new
members with a winning record in conference play, rode its
excellent outside shooting early to leads of 8-0, 13-3 and 19-7.
But coach Tom Crean said that halfway through their first season
in the Big East, the Eagles are learning the difference between it
and Conference USA, their former league.
"It's the depth of the league," Crean said. "Teams can go to
their bench and there's no drop-off. It's really impressive."
So was Pitt's rebounding edge, with Levon Kendall adding nine
rebounds. Gray (9) and Kendall (5) combined for 14 of Pitt's 19
"My offense was bad, and I had to keep taking three or four
opportunities to get an easy basket," said Gray, who was 6-of-14
from the field.
Pitt went on the first of two 10-0 runs in the second half to
take a 52-47 lead on Graves' 3-pointer. Marquette later regained
the lead at 56-54 on Jerel McNeal's basket, but seemed to lose its
offensive rhythm when its second-leading scorer, freshman point
guard Dominic James, sat out for 7½ minutes with a shoulder injury.
Just ahead of Graves' 3-pointer, Pitt had taken its first lead
at 49-47 on Krauser's steal and layup seconds after he had tied it
with a 3-pointer. The burst came immediately after he learned he
had passed Knight into 13th place on Pitt's career scoring list.
"They honored me on the big screen, so I thought it would be
good to come down and get that shot," Krauser said.
Marquette regained the lead at 58-56 on Joe Chapman's basket
with 6:26 remaining, but Pitt went on its second and decisive 10-0
run keyed by Graves' go-ahead 3-pointer, Krauser's three-point play
and Graves' two free throws.
James initially injured his shoulder running into a screen set
by the 7-foot Gray in the first half, then aggravated it while
being fouled by Fields with about 13 minutes remaining. James had a
team-high 16 points in 30 minutes, but the Golden Eagles struggled
for long stretches with James sitting down and leading scorer Steve
Novak, who averages 16 points and had 41 in an earlier upset of
No. 1 Connecticut, fouled out late with eight points. Novak is
fighting an ankle injury and has been held to 13 points in his last
two games after scoring a combined 52 in the previous two.
Reserve Ryan Amoroso added 14 points for Marquette.
Pitt plays Tuesday at No. 1 Connecticut. The Panthers are 0-12
in their 100-year basketball history against No. 1-ranked teams.