PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ashton Gibbs and Gary McGhee scored key baskets to start a game-ending 9-1 run and No. 17 Pittsburgh overcame some poor shooting and a large rebounding disparity for a 63-53 victory over St. John's on Thursday night.
Brad Wanamaker scored 16 points, Gibbs added 14 points and McGhee scored eight of his 10 points in the second half as the Panthers (16-4, 6-2 Big East) rallied from a six-point deficit to end their first two-game losing streak in nearly two years.
Justin Burrell scored 14 points and Dwight Hardy had 12 despite making only three of 10 shots for St. John's (12-8, 2-6), which lost its seventh in 10 games. The Red Storm trailed only 54-52 after D.J. Kennedy's two free throws with 1:56 to play.
Gibbs hit a 15-footer from the left wing to put Pitt back up by four and, after Burrell drew an offensive foul, McGhee dunked with a minute remaining to make it 58-52.
The Panthers finished it off at the foul line, where they were 21 of 24. They shot 40 percent (20 of 50) from the field after being in the low 30s for the first 30 minutes.
The Red Storm outrebounded Pitt 41-31 as Hardy had 12 rebounds, but shot only 32.8 percent (19 of 58). Kennedy, a Pittsburgh high school teammate of ex-Pitt star DeJuan Blair who came in averaging 15.3 points, missed eight of 11 shots and finished with nine points.
Pitt led 18-17 near the midpoint of the first half, but Anthony Mason Jr. drove for a pair of layups that put the Red Storm up 21-18. They went on to lead 32-26 early in the second half.
The Panthers, coming off losses to Georgetown and Seton Hall, regained the lead at 40-39 on Gilbert Brown's two free throws with 10:05 remaining. McGhee, who had scored only once previously in the game, then scored the Panthers' next two baskets to make it 44-39 — their biggest lead to that point.
McGhee scored in double figures for the first time in 13 games.
The Panthers finished a 16-5 run with Wanamaker's baseline drive with 8 minutes to go — a surge that occurred without starting guard Jermaine Dixon, who injured his right ankle with 16:44 remaining and did not return. He missed the first eight games of the season after twice breaking his right foot during the summer.
Burrell's baseline drive and Hardy's 3-pointer cut it to 50-48, but Wanamaker responded by scoring on a runner from the lane and a 15-foot jumper to put Pitt back in front by six. Wanamaker scored all but three of his 16 points in the second half.
Pitt has won its last six against St. John's on its home court by an average of 18 points, and the Red Storm hadn't won in Pittsburgh since an 88-60 decision on Feb. 2, 1999.
The Panthers haven't lost three in a row since Feb. 15-24, 2008, and have done so only twice during Jamie Dixon's seven seasons as coach.