PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (Ticker) -- Chris Taft and Pittsburgh turned a Big East Conference showdown into a beatdown.
Taft scored 14 of his 24 season-high points in the first half as the sixth-ranked Panthers moved into a tie atop the conference with an 88-61 rout over No. 13 Providence.
Pittsburgh (26-3, 12-3 Big East) bounced back from Sunday's loss to Syracuse that snapped a 40-game home winning streak. The Panthers are tied with Connecticut and can claim the top seed for the Big East tournament with a win Saturday vs. Villanova.
Providence (20-6, 11-4), which entered on a six-game winning streak, fell one game back of the co-leaders. But the Panthers' physical frontcourt of Taft and Chevy Troutman proved to be too much for the Friars, who received a quiet 11 points from leading scorer Ryan Gomes.
"I thought we played great team defense, especially on Gomes," Troutman said. "There was defensive contribution from everyone and that helped us get out on the break and get some easy baskets."
Taft, a freshman, scored 10 points and Troutman's layup capped a 12-2 burst that gave Pittsburgh the lead for good at 27-21 with 4:38 to go. The Panthers settled for a 33-27 lead at intermission before pounding the Friars into submission with 64 percent shooting (18-of-28) after the break.
Carl Krauser had a field day carving up the Friars' backcourt of Donnie McGrath and Sheiku Kabba by handing out eight assists - Kabba and McGrath combined for two. Taft was often the beneficiary of Krauser's work.
"I was just trying to flash and look for the ball all night," Taft said. "The way Carl passed the ball, we just knew he would find us."
Troutman added a season-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting and Krauser netted 22 for Pitt, which posted its largest victory margin since a 79-51 dismantling of Chicago State on December 17.
The Panthers held a 31-22 advantage on the glass and even shot their free throws well. Krauser's 13-of-15 performance at the line helped Pitt - a 63 percent free-throw shooting team - to a season-high 90 percent (28-of-31).
"We just executed and passed the ball, especially amongst the big guys and just played unselfishly throughout the game," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "I can't say enough about how our guys responded and stepped up and just showed the focus we showed yesterday in practice."
With Gomes being bottled up by Pitt's big men, Providence had nowhere to turn for offense and the result was 36 percent (19-of-53) shooting. Rob Sanders scored 16 points to lead the Friars, who were outscored on the break, 16-2.
"I was just disgusted with our defensive transition (play)," Friars coach Tim Welsh said. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing actually."
The Panthers concluded the road portion of their schedule with a 7-2 mark.