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Pitt pulls away from Robert Morris 74-53

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Robert Morris battled gamely behind Russell Johnson's 15 points and 12 rebounds, but ultimately Pitt's size and depth were too much as the Panthers pulled away for a 74-53 win. Ashton Gibbs led No. 5 Pitt with 20, while Brad Wanamaker added 17 points, 7 boards and 7 assists.

It wasn't the prettiest of games.

But with a strong-second half effort, and a 6 of 11 performance from 3-point range in the second half, No. 5 Pitt (6-0) defeated Robert Morris (2-2) 74-53 at Petersen Events Center Tuesday night.

Ashton Gibbs finished with a game-high 20-points, connecting on 4 of 8 from beyond-the-arc.

The Panthers have now won 100 of their last 101 non-conference home games.

Robert Morris, who was coming off a shocking 69-63 road win against Duquesne over the weekend, kept the game close for a majority of the night, and pulled within five points with a little under 11 minutes left in the game.

The Colonials played without star guard Karon Abraham, who was suspended just hours before tip-off.

“There were stretches in the first half where we played Robert Morris. And then to start the second half, again I like the way we played,” said Colonials coach Andrew Toole. “Other than that I don't think we competed the way we wanted to compete. I don't think we were as relentless as we needed to be. You can see by the outcome that Pitt was more relentless.”

The Colonials kept it close thanks to 15 Pitt turnovers, despite shooting just 27 of 59 (45.8%) from the field for the game.

“It's something we just can't do,” said Gibbs about the turnovers. “Robert Morris was a good team. They were scrappy and they really got into us in the first half and we really let it get to us. Sometimes the pressure just overtook us. We just can't let that happen.”

“15 turnovers is too high; it's below what we want to have which is 12,” said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. “We're always one of the lowest teams in the country as far as standards, so we always shoot for the lowest.

"They're good and they played hard,” continued Dixon. “I was happy with the rebounding. We out-rebounded them by 15. I was happy with our field goal percentage defense. We didn't defend their bank-shots from the key very well, so I'd say that means we played pretty good defense.”

The Panthers out-rebounded RMU 51-36, thanks in large part to center Gary McGhee, who racked up his first double-double of the year, ripping down 12 boards and tying a career-high with 11 points.

“We knew that we had to come out in the second half and be more physical, be more assertive and not let the other team back into the game,” said McGhee.

Never finding a comfortable lead in the first half, Pitt allowed a 7-2 run from the Colonials, ending in a beautiful no-look pass from Anthony Myers to Yann Charles who finished with a layup, to make it a 33-28 Panther difference at the break.

Yann finished with 8 points, while Russell Johnson finished with a double-double, scoring a team-high 15 points and 12 rebounds.

“We forced too many shots instead of moving the ball and finding the open shots and taking what the defense gives us,” said Gibbs.

The Panthers ended the game on a 24-7 run, after a Gibbs 3-pointer made it a nine-point difference with 9:40 left in the second half.

“I think we moved the ball better in the second half,” said Dixon. “We wanted to run our sets into motion and have some more patience offensively. I think their switching we could have handled better. We did wait for better shots, and we got better shots.”

Pitt scored on 14 field goals and went 7 of 12 from the free throw line in the second half.

Brad Wanamaker finished with 17 points—11 coming in the final 20 minutes of play—while Brown chipped in with an 11-point performance.

“That's kind of what we do game after game. We execute down the stretch,” Dixon said. “Our defense tightens up, and we get to the free throw line. I think we've seen this story before. I think the game we played against them last season was much like this.”

STRANGLEHOLD

Pitt is now 29-0 against Robert Morris in the overall series record. The Panthers have defeated the Colonials by double-digits in every meeting except for Dec. 30, 1980, in a 71-63 affair.

ABRAHAM SUSPENDED

While the reasoning behind the suspension is unknown, Toole stated after the game that his suspension status as of now is “day-by-day at this point.”

PLAY OF THE GAME

With 7:08 left in the second half, Gilbert Brown gave his defender a head-fake, then drove to from the top of the key to the rim, laying down a soaring slam dunk, and drawing a foul. To follow-up that incredible play, Gary McGhee rebounded Brown's missed free throw attempt with a layup, drawing another foul. He converted on his attempt.

QUOTABLE

“I think we come out and underestimate them a little bit, but we don't come out as aggressive as we usually do. They come out as hard as they can no matter what they're ranked and no matter what we're ranked. We just have to treat every game the same at the end.”
-Ashton Gibbs on annually defeating their non-conference opponents at home.

“We're not just good in November and December, we're the best team in the Big East by far; I mean it's a large margin. We win more games than most teams in the NCAA tournament. Just look at the records. We've done it everywhere.” -Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon

NEXT UP

Pitt will play host to Penn on Sat. Nov. 27 at 7 PM, while Robert Morris will look to stay above .500 in a road game against Cleveland State on Mon. Nov. 29 at 6 PM.

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