There are games you need and there are games you NEED. Pittsburgh won one of the latter.

The 24th-ranked Panthers had lost three straight and four of five, and the latest loss was a 112-85 nationally televised humiliation at UCLA. They responded with an 86-80 victory over Seton Hall Monday night to stay in the thick of the Big East title chase."I guess you could say we needed a win - badly," Pitt coach Paul Evans said. "You've got to give credit to the kids. They were demoralized after losing (to UCLA) and they had a long flight home, but I definitely wasn't going to give them Sunday night off.

"They had a good practice and it carried over. Darelle (Porter) was really into it and had everybody up. His effort was exceptional."

Porter had 13 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists as the Panthers (16-7, 5-4) handed Seton Hall (13-7, 5-6) its third straight loss and fourth in six games.

"We went out there with a lot of intensity . . . we didn't have that (against UCLA)," Porter said. "We had a team meeting and said, `It's time to play in the Big East again and let's forget about it."'

Pitt lost a seven-point halftime lead and Seton Hall took the lead early in the second half behind three 3-pointers by Terry Dehere. The Panthers got the lead for good at 54-53 on Porter's layup with 13:31 remaining. The Panthers built the lead to 72-62, but Dehere's 3-pointer with 49 seconds left cut it to four.

Brian Shorter, who finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, then made one free throw with 34 seconds left and two more with 17 seconds left to ensure the win.

"We needed this game," Shorter said. "We're back in the conference and we had to start executing better."

Dehere led Seton Hall with 25 points and Anthony Avent had 23.

"I'm not bothered by a three-game losing streak," Avent said. "We could just as easily go on a six-game winning streak."

"We've got just one (conference) road game left and five at home. You can still be a good team in this league and still have four or five losses," Pirates coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "I think five losses will win the league."

No. 11 Virginia 87, Radford 54

Bryant Stith had 25 points and Kenny Turner added 18 and a career-high 16 rebounds as the Cavaliers easily won their sixth straight. John Crotty had 14 points and Matt Blundin grabbed 10 rebounds for Virginia (17-4), which had a 53-20 rebounding advantage. Ron Shelburne led visiting Radford (16-5), which shot just 39 percent, with 16 points.

No. 12 S. Mississippi 98,

Appalachian State 74

Russell Johnson led five Golden Eagles (15-2) in double figures with 22 points as they cruised to the road victory after leading 48-40 at halftime. Clarence Weatherspoon scored six points in the early second-half run which gave Southern Mississippi a 65-50 lead with 13:08 to play. Steve Spurlock led the Mountaineers (11-10) with 22 points.

No. 13 E. Tennessee State 93,

Tn.-Chattanooga 70

The Buccaneers (19-2, 8-1) took over sole possession of first place in the Southern Conference and avenged their only conference loss of the season with some impressive defense. Keith Jennings had 26 points and Calvin Talford added 19 as East Tennessee State forced 24 turnovers in front of a record home crowd of 12,884. East Tennessee State opened the game with a 24-7 run that included two 3-pointers by the 5-foot-7 Jennings, who finished 4-for-4 from 3-point range. LeVert Threats led the Moccasins (14-8, 7-2) with 16 points.

Other Games

Robert Youngblood scored 35 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Southern University overcame a 45-point effort by Mississippi Valley's Alphonso Ford for a 117-102 SWAC victory.

Deon Thomas was 9-for-10 from the field and scored 22 points to lead Illinois to a 73-59 Big Ten victory over Northwestern.

Freshman Bernard Blunt scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and St. Joseph's ended an 11-game losing string to Temple with a 66-60 Atlantic 10 victory over its cross-city rival.

Eddie Bird scored 21 points and Indiana State beat Wichita State 64-58 for its first victory at Levitt Arena since 1979 when the Sycamores' star was Eddie older brother Larry. The Sycamores have won three straight, their longest winning streak since 1984-85.