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Updated: Tuesday, January 14, 2003 11:51 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(3) Pittsburgh 80, West Virginia 61
PITTSBURGH PANTHERS
Pittsburgh Panthers
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WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
West Virginia Mountaineers
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MORGANTOWN, West Virginia (Ticker) -- Donatas Zavackas and Pittsburgh are showing mental toughness on the road.

Zavackas scored 16 points as the third-ranked Panthers won their 10th straight Big East Conference regular-season game with an 80-61 rout of West Virginia.

Pittsburgh (14-1, 3-0 Big East West) came off a tough 70-63 victory at Rutgers on Sunday and took control late in the first half to knock off one of its biggest rivals for the third straight time. The Panthers won both meetings last season by an average of 14 points.

"This is a very big win for us," Panthers coach Ben Howland said. "We have a veteran team who knows how to win on the road."

West Virginia (9-5, 0-2) took its final lead at 22-21 on Drew Schifino's basket 8:38 before halftime. Brandin Knight drained a 3-pointer and Jaron Brown had a steal and a three-point play as Pittsburgh took the lead for good.

Ontario Lett scored on a reverse layup and freshman Carl Krauser had a steal and a layup to cap the 10-0 tear for a 31-22 lead with just over four minutes left. The Panthers took a 40-28 lead into halftime.

Lett, Brown and Julius Page scored 14 points apiece for Pittsburgh, which shot 63 percent (31-of-49). Zavackas was 6-of-7 from the floor and made all four of his 3-point attempts.

The Panthers connected on 10-of-18 from beyond the arc to exploit West Virginia's zone.

"I was especially concerned because West Virginia goes out there and executes things so perfectly," Howland said. "We attack the zone (well)."

A pair of foul shots by Lett gave Pitt its largest lead at 74-53 with 2:28 to go.

Schifino, a native of suburban Pittsburgh, led all scorers with 19 points for West Virginia. The Mountaineers dropped to 7-1 at home.

"Pitt is for real. They played beautiful defense tonight and they made the lane hard to drive," West Virginia coach John Beilein said. "It's like driving into a brick wall. They show some qualities of the teams that really go far in March."

Lett converted all four shots to continue his roll. The 6-6 senior forward is shooting a sizzling 86 percent (26-of-30) in his last four games.

The Panthers also did a terrific job contesting the Mountaineers on the perimeter as West Virginia made just 5-of-22 from beyond the arc. Freshman center Kevin Pittsnogle missed all five 3-pointers after making 24-of-41 entering the game.

Pittsnogle scored 14 points and was the only other Mountaineer in double figures. West Virginia had just nine baskets in the second half.

"We were really inefficient on offense tonight," Beilein said. "It was basically a physical mismatch, but I had hoped we would play better."

Pitt held a 31-22 edge on the glass as Page grabbed six rebounds. Knight handed out eight assists and Brown came up with five steals.


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