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March 8, 2007

No. 13 Pitt advances to Big East semifinals

Box Score

NEW YORK -Aaron Gray scored 22 points to help No. 13 Pittsburgh beat No. 18 Marquette 89-79 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament Thursday night.

Sam Young added 17 and Mike Cook 16 for Pitt (26-6), which lost both regular-season meetings to Marquette - including a 75-71 defeat on Saturday that spoiled the Panthers' chances of getting a share of the conference title.

Pitt is the No. 3 seed in the tournament and has played in five of the last six tournament title games.

The Panthers will play second-seeded Louisville in the semifinals Friday night. Terrence Williams scored 21 points and Earl Clark added 17 as the No. 12 Cardinals beat West Virginia 82-71 in double overtime.

Dan Fitzgerald matched his career high with 20 points to lead Marquette (24-9). He had set that high in the Golden Eagles' 76-67 win over St. John's in the opening round Wednesday night. Wesley Matthews had 19 points and Dominic James added 16 for the Golden Eagles.

The Golden Eagles were still without Jerel McNeal, a second-team all-Big East selection who averages 14.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.6 steals. The sophomore guard injured a thumb in practice last Friday and didn't play in the finale against Pitt or Wednesday's win against St. John's.

The Panthers, who had five players score in double figures, led by one early in the second half before using a 7-0 run capped by Antonio Graves' 3-pointer to build a 49-41 advantage.

The Golden Eagles could only get as close as five before Pitt slowly extended the lead to 69-57 with 8:49 left on Gray's jump hook.

Marquette never threatened after that, only getting within eight points.

Pittsburgh continued to struggle to slow Marquette defensively. The Golden Eagles are the only Big East team to score more than 70 points against the Panthers this season, doing so in all three games.

Trailing 29-27 with 4 minutes left in the first half, Pitt used an 11-3 spurt to take a 38-32 lead with 51 seconds left. James scored the last five points of the half - including his first 3-pointer of the tournament - to get the Golden Eagles within 40-37 at the break.

James had missed his first 12 3-pointers in the tournament, going 0-for-9 in the opening round and then misconnecting on his first three Thursday night.

For more coverage of the Marquette Golden Eagles, check out MarquetteWatch.com; for more on the Pittsburgh Panthers, check out PantherLair.com.

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