March 20, 2004

(3) Pittsburgh 53, (14) UCF 44

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Well this certainly wasn't the kind of game anyone expected from Pittsburgh.

Usually crisp and cool -- not to mention good -- Pittsburgh played its worst game of the season Friday night, barely managing to hold off scrappy Central Florida 53-44 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The Panthers shot a season-worst 29.5 percent, and had their fewest field goals (13) and assists (seven). Carl Krauser led Pittsburgh with 18 points and Chevon Troutman added 13 on 5-for-5 shooting, but the rest of the squad went 4-of-26.

The victory was Pittsburgh's 30th this season, a school record, and fans threw blue-and-gold confetti as the final buzzer sounded. But it's safe to say the Panthers (30-4) won't be devoting too much attention to this one in the record books.

Much had been made of Pittsburgh only getting a third seed. But if Central Florida wasn't equally inept, shooting less than 31 percent, the Panthers would likely be heading home.

Instead, they advanced to the second round of the East Rutherford regional where they'll play sixth-seeded Wisconsin on Sunday. The Badgers beat Richmond 76-64.

The 14th-seeded Golden Knights (25-6) have one victory over a Top 25 team and are 0-for-3 in the NCAA tournament. But it seemed as if this might be their night, especially with the Wisconsin crowd jumping on their bandwagon. Whenever the small contingent of Pittsburgh fans started chanting, ``Let's go Pitt!'' they were quickly drowned out by the Central Florida and Wisconsin fans.

Roberto Morenti's layup with 10:07 left gave the Golden Knights a 36-33 lead, but their already sputtery offense fell apart from there. They made just one field goal the rest of the way, while Pittsburgh outscored them 20-8 in the final 10 minutes.

It helped that the Panthers finally got their offense going. Pittsburgh has four players -- Krauser, Julius Page, Jaron Brown and Chris Taft -- who average in double figures, but Krauser was the only one getting it done Friday. He scored 12 of Pittsburgh's first 13 points in the second half, and the Panthers didn't get a field goal from anyone else until Troutman's driving layup with 5:28 to play.

Page finally hit a 3-pointer with 2:25 left after missing 10 of his first 11 shots. The basket was a big one, too, putting Pittsburgh comfortably ahead 43-38. The Golden Knights tried to mount a last comeback, but they didn't have the energy.

Or the offense.

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