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No. 10 Pitt cruises past overmatched Providence

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Carl Krauser chuckled and flashed a big grin.

After a satisfying 81-68 win over Providence on Saturday night,
Pittsburgh's (No. 10 ESPN/USA Today; No. 9 AP) star guard could finally devote his full
attention to Monday's crucial road game against rival West
Virginia (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today; No. 14 AP).

"We can definitely think about West Virginia this Monday,"
Krauser said with a smile.

That contest could have postseason implications as the Panthers
(21-4, 10-4) jostle with the Mountaineers and the Big East's other
top teams for seeding in the upcoming conference tournament.
Pittsburgh and West Virginia are tied for third in the Big East.

Beating the Friars helped the Panthers' confidence, especially
after having been off for a week since their last game, an 84-82
loss to Marquette on Feb. 18.

"After you lose, you're always anxious to play," Krauser said.
"Everything went a lot more smoother today."

Aaron Gray had 17 points and nine rebounds and reserve guards
Antonio Graves and Levance Fields keyed a first-half run and the
Panthers led by as many as 18 in the first half.

"The game really got out of hand early," Providence coach Tim
Welsh said. "When you are digging like that against them early,
you put yourself in a tough situation. It stunned us early."

The Friars got within 55-49 midway through the second half off
Sharaud Curry's soft jumper off the glass.

But Krauser hit a 3-pointer and baseline layup to keep the lead
at double digits. Graves hit an open 3 with a little more than 3
minutes left to extend the lead to 75-59, raising his right arm in
the air as he ran back on defense.

Curry finished with 24 points while Geoff McDermott grabbed 14
rebounds for the Friars (12-13, 5-9). Leading scorer Donnie McGrath
was held to seven points, eight below his season average, on 3-of-9
shooting.

Five Panthers, including Graves, took turns guarding McGrath.

"I don't remember him getting a lot of good looks," Panthers
coach Jaime Dixon said.

Pitt built an early lead even with Gray, the Big East's leading
rebounder, on the bench for much of the first half with two fouls.

It was the guys who came off the bench that gave Pitt a spark.

Fields hit a 3-pointer and two runners to help the Panthers open
up a 19-10 lead. Graves hit two long jumpers before Gray returned
with just under 6 minutes left and the Panthers leading by 11.

Gray was dominating when he was on the floor, shooting 7-of-10
from the field and blocking two shots.

"They're a bad matchup for anyone," Welsh said. "Gray is a
bad matchup for everyone."

Fields finished with nine points, all in the first half, while
Graves had a team-high 18.

"I'm always waiting for an opportunity to step up and do what
Coach Dixon tells me to do," Graves said. "They can't double-team
all of us."

Krauser, who had 14 points and five assists, was his typical
energetic self and riled up the crowd. At one point in the first
half, after drawing an offensive foul on Providence, Krauser ran
toward the student section behind the basket, flashed a big smile
and pumped his arms in the air.

To top it off, it was a throwback weekend at Pitt. The team won
dark blue jerseys dating back to 1980 instead of their typical
white home uniforms, and the school announced their
"All-Centennial" team during the game in celebration of 100 years
of basketball at the school.

Past standouts like Charles Smith and Jerome Lane, who played
prominent roles in Pitt's basketball success in the 1980s, were named to the team.

Providence did have some success in the middle against Pitt's
tough front line, getting 15 points from starting center Herbert
Hill and 15 points and six boards from backup center Randall Hanke.

But the Friars couldn't capitalize on a chance to leapfrog
struggling Louisville in the conference standings and stayed tied
for 10th place. Only the top 12 teams in the 16-team league go to
New York for the conference tournament.

"In order to beat [Pittsburgh], a lot of things have to go your
way," Welsh said. "You have to make things go your way."

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