PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Brandin Knight and Pittsburgh are still shaky at the line but made just enough free throws down the stretch.
Knight converted four key foul shots as the fourth-ranked Panthers scored 10 of their final 14 points at the line for a 68-61 Big East Conference victory over Providence.
Pittsburgh (16-2, 6-1 Big East West) moved into a tie for first place in the West Division with Notre Dame. The Panthers, who are last in the Big East in foul shooting at just 60 percent, made 10-of-14 in the final four minutes and finished at 72 percent (23-of-32).
"We took more shots and spent more time in practice on free throws," Pittsburgh coach Ben Howland said.
Knight, the team's point guard, is notoriously poor at the line and entered shooting only 30 percent (7-of-23) in conference games. But he made 4-of-6 in the final 2:41, including a pair for a 64-58 advantage with 86 seconds to go.
"He shot better today than he has shot in a while during shootaround," Howland said. "Brandin is a very smart player. His presence is also incredible, so his shooting is the least of worries."
Providence (10-9, 3-5 East) rallied from 14 points down in the second half and pulled into a 54-54 tie on a pair of free throws by Sheiku Kabba with 4:39 remaining. Pittsburgh's Ontario Lett scored an inside basket, freshman Carl Krauser split two foul shots and Jaron Brown converted a pair after he was fouled for a 59-54 lead with 3:13 to go.
The Panthers extended their home winning streak to 18 games, including a 12-0 mark in the new Petersen Events Center. They played without starting guard Julius Page, who had a streak of 77 games snapped due to an bnkle injury.
"For myself, it's just making an adjustment," Knight said. "I just have to trust Carl (Page's replacement) to make plays. He makes mistakes sometimes, but he also does a lot of things Julius doesn't."
Lett scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half and Brown added six of his 15 points down the stretch. Brown, a 57 percent foul shooter, made 8-of-9 free throws. Krauser finished with four assists and five rebounds.
Chevy Troutman scored 12 points off the bench and Knight finished with 11 despite 3-of-11 shooting. Knight led all players with nine assists.
Providence made 9-of-11 at the line and coach Tim Welsh was not happy with the disparity in attempts.
"We did not get to the line enough," Welsh said. "You need to ask other people why. We went just two times in the first half."
The Friars got off to a strong start and took a 13-8 advantage on freshman Donnie McGrath's 3-pointer with 11:11 remaining in the first half. The Panthers responded with a 22-6 run that featured nine straight points by Lett during one stretch and took a 31-19 lead 3:46 before intermission.
Knight's layup off a fast break gave Pitt its biggest lead at 45-31 with just over 16 minutes left to play. The scrappy Friars fought back and got within 50-48 on a layup by Ryan Gomes midway through the half and eventually drew even.
"We just need to stop relaxing when we are up," Lett said. "Everyone is trying to play physically, but we need to start playing with a killer instinct."
But Providence struggled to execute down the stretch, committing turnovers on three straight possessions after tying the game. The Friars finished with 20 turnovers.
"Twenty turnovers are too many," Welsh said. "They made easy baskets."
Gomes collected 26 points and eight rebounds to lead Providence, which fell to 0-3 against ranked teams this season. Kabba netted 15 points off the bench.
Aside from Gomes, the Friars got only 10 points from their starters as the backcourt tandem of McGrath and Romuald Augustin combined to make just 2-of-10 shots. Providence converted just 4-of-19 shots from beyond the arc.