PITTSBURGH — After nearly overcoming a 13-point first-half deficit, USF was surging and had No. 4 Pittsburgh on its heels.
The Bulls pushed and scrapped and trailed by only one with 10:05 left.
But it was as close as they got before powerful Pitt, playing its third straight game without injured leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, pulled away to a 67-55 win Wednesday night before 12,519.
"Give those guys a lot of credit," USF coach Stan Heath said of Pitt. "Without one of their best players, to find a way to win three straight games the way they've done it is pretty impressive. Our guys battled pretty good today, but it just wasn't enough."
Nasir Robinson had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Brad Wanamaker also scored 13 for Pitt (24-2, 12-1 Big East). The conference's leader won its fifth game in a row and extended USF's losing streak to five.
The Bulls (8-19, 2-12) have lost all nine of their games this season against ranked teams and return home to face No. 9 Georgetown on Saturday night.
Gilbert Brown and freshman Talib Zanna added 11 points each for Pitt, which visits USF for a rematch on March 2.
Pitt outrebounded USF 40-18, including 26-9 in the second half, when the Panthers used a 15-2 scoring run to seal it after the Bulls had closed within one twice, the last at 45-44 on two free throws by Jarrid Famous.
"Pittsburgh is very physical, and you see it in the rebounding and screening," Heath said. "That's what separates them from our league. There's other physical teams and teams that screen well, but they're a little notch above. It makes a difference."
Shaun Noriega led USF with 11 points, and Augustus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous each had 10.
"Against a team that played well, we found a way to win with rebounding and defense," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
The Panthers used a 10-0 run to break open a close game before USF rallied to cut the halftime score to 39-26 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Noriega, the last coming as time expired.
"We were pumped. We were energetic. We were ready to go out in the second half and try to get the W," Noriega said.
Heath said he elected to keep Gilchrist, the Bulls' leading scorer, on the bench to start the game. The 6-foot-10 junior, who was averaging 11.9 points, did not enter the lineup until 51/2 minutes had passed.
"Just a coach's decision," Heath said. "I wanted him to come in a little more relaxed. He hadn't been playing well lately."
Gilchrist shot 3-of-7 and had one rebound, while the team's second-leading scorer, Jawanza Poland, played just 10 minutes and was scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting with no rebounds.