MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- Pittsburgh was nearly on the wrong end of a huge upset before Central Florida went cold.
Carl Krauser scored 20 points and Julius Page made a big 3-pointer down the stretch as the third-seeded Panthers pulled away for a 53-44 victory over the 14th-seeded Golden Knights in the first round of the East Rutherford Region.
Central Florida held a 36-33 edge after Roberto Morentin buried a jumper with 10:07 remaining in an ugly game but went nearly 10 minutes without a basket while Pittsburgh took over.
"We did a great job of giving ourselves an opportunity to win the game," Central Florida coach Kirk Speraw said. "We just didn't execute some things down the stretch. I'm proud of the way our guys battled."
Krauser made a pair of free throws to bring the Panthers within 36-35 with 8:55 left and neither team scored until Chevy Troutman's layup gave Pittsburgh (30-4) the lead for good at 5:28.
The Panthers were clinging to a 40-38 edge before the struggling Page, who had just 10 points on 2-of-13 shooting, buried a 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:25 to go.
"I thought we stepped up as we had done all year, making big plays," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "I'm very happy with the win. (Central Florida) played very well, just as we expected them to."
Pittsburgh made 10-of-12 free throws in the final two minutes to secure the win and advance to a second-round meeting with No. 6 seed Wisconsin on Sunday.
The Panthers made just 13 baskets in the game, shooting a season-low 29.5 percent from the floor (13-of-44), but made 22-of-31 from the line while the Golden Knights were only 7-of-10.
"They were playing great defense," Krauser said. "They were doubling the ball and scrambling, trying to make us speed up. I attribute that to them playing great help team defense."
Pittsburgh's performance was even more dreadful when you consider that Troutman made all five of his shots before fouling out. Page and Krauser combined to make 6-of-25 shots.
"We'd like to make every shot but sometime that doesn't happen," Dixon said. "Our team defense was tremendous against a very good team."
Morentin finished with 16 points and Dexter Lyons had 12 on 4-of-15 shooting for Central Florida (25-6), which shot just over 30 percent (16-of-52) and was 5-of-20 from 3-point range.