PITTSBURGH – For more than 30 minutes Monday night, Fuquan Edwin singlehandedly kept Seton Hall in the game with No. 23 Pittsburgh.
He hit jumpers. He slashed through the lane for lay-ups. He put the Pirates in position to knock off a ranked team for the first time in nearly a year.
One bad step, however, and it all disappeared.
Edwin finished with 23 points but just three after turning his right ankle with 7:38 remaining as the Pirates fell 56-46. Seton Hall trailed 40-39 when Edwin turned the ankle while fighting for a rebound. Though he returned to the court a minute later, he wasn't the same and neither were the Pirates.
Pitt finished the game on a 16-7 burst after Edwin's injury to win for the sixth time in seven games.
"That was a crucial part," said Pitt guard Cameron Wright, who guarded Edwin much of the second half. "Momentum was already in our favor when he went down."
And it didn't stop when Edwin hobbled back onto the floor, though Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard was more concerned about his team's inability to convert free throws late than Edwin's effectiveness.
The Pirates shot just 13 of 20 (65 percent) at the line and missed the front end of two one-and-ones that could have kept them close.
"That's where the game got away from us," Willard said.
Lamar Patterson scored 12 points and freshman center Steven Adams added eight points, 15 rebounds and two blocks for the Panthers (19-5, 7-4 Big East) who survived on a night they struggled to get into any sort of against the undermanned Pirates rhythm.
Seton Hall shot just 33 percent (14 of 42) from the field and made just two baskets over the final 10 minutes. The Pirates played without guard Aaron Crosby, who missed the game due to personal reasons and guard Brian Oliver was limited with an ankle injury of his own.
"We got hit by the injury bug pretty bad," Willard said. "I'm kind of proud of our guys and way able to shuffle around and do different things."
Pitt finally found some breathing room midway through the second half after Seton Hall took a 39-38 lead. Patterson hit a layup off a nice feed from Adams to put the Panthers in front for good and Adams followed with a nifty spin move for a dunk.
The quickly developing 7-footer hung on the rim, however, and received a technical foul for his efforts. Seton Hall's Kyle Smyth hit both free throws to pull the Pirates back within 42-41, but things changed for Seton Hall after Edwin landed awkwardly on his right ankle.
Though Edwin would somehow make a lay-up while basically playing on one foot, it marked Seton Hall's only bucket for a 10-minute span until Haralds Karlis put home a meaningless dunk in the waning seconds.
The Panthers vaulted back into the rankings following a 65-55 upset of the Orange over the weekend, the kind of victory Pitt needed to give its steady but hardly spectacular resume a boost.
Barely 48 hours after the season's biggest triumph, the Panthers flirted with giving away all of their hard-won positive momentum.
The Panthers took a quick seven-point lead then went more than 6 minutes without a field goal. The team that began the night second in assist/turnover ratio had just six assists on six turnovers in a disjointed opening 20 minutes that ended with an ugly 24-all.
Pitt quickly built another seven-point advantage early in the second half but Seton Hall scratched its way back in front 39-38 on a free throw by Edwin with 9:44 to go. It would be the Pirates' last hurrah on a night the Panthers found a way even if it wasn't particularly pretty.
"When your shots aren't falling, it does get frustrating, but it's a good sign," Patterson said. "We fought through some things and faced a little adversity. We've just got to get our legs back."