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No. 9 Virginia pulls away from Pitt in second half

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Ninth-ranked Virginia won their sixth straight game with a 64-50 win over Pitt behind 21 points from Malcolm Brogdon.

PITTSBURGH - The loss drops Pitt to 6-4 in the ACC ahead of a brutal two game road trip at Miami and North Carolina. Jamel Artis had 17 points in a losing effort.

Tony Bennett’s squad has been a thorn in Jamie Dixon’s side, especially Brogdon, who entered the game as his team’s leading scorer at 17.8 per game and hit a game winning three pointer against the Panthers two years ago on Super Bowl Sunday.

“We knew what we were going to get,” Dixon said. “We saw it, we prepared for it, but we didn’t handle it (well).

Virginia’s defense, while not as strong as past seasons, still ranks sixth nationally, allowing only 60.5 points per game. Over their previous five contests they’ve allowed even fewer points by opponents, resulting in a five game win streak.

Pitt was able to match Virginia’s defensive intensity for stretches in the first half, and won the battle of the boards 14-13. However, they were unable to contain Brogdon, who had 14 first half points and led the Cavaliers to a two point lead at the break.

“He’s getting very efficient looks…he got us off to a good start on the road,” Bennett said.

Pitt frontcourt-mates Artis and Young dominated early action, scoring 21 of their 27 points. The Panthers would need other contributors if they were to defeat the 9th ranked Cavaliers.

After briefly tying the game in the beginning of the second half, Pitt turned the ball over on three straight possessions leading to easy transition buckets. Virginia quickly opened up a double digit lead and took some of the air out of the Panthers’ sail.

“We let them hit a couple shots and we didn’t respond,” Artis said. “We didn’t respond early enough and it got away.”

Dixon’s side shot only 38 percent in the second half and had eight turnovers.

“Spacing wasn’t good and decision making wasn’t good. They’re a tough team to play when you get down,” Dixon said.

Pitt’s second half turnovers proved vital in ending any comeback attempt, as Virginia’s half-court offense proved too much for the Panthers to handle.

The Cavaliers’ three point shooting and points off turnovers were clearly the difference in the game. Virginia made 9 triples on 16 attempts and scored 20 points off 11 Pitt turnovers.

“A couple of those turnovers were just bad decisions on their part, and we took advantage of it,” Bennett said.

In comparison Pitt shot 2 of 13 from beyond the arc and scored only six points off seven Virginia turnovers.

Virginia’s defense will likely be the story in this contest, but their offense was equally up to task, as they shot 48 percent from the field.

“You can’t let teams shoot 50 percent, go 9-16 (from three) and expect to beat a good defensive team,” Dixon said.

James Robinson’s struggles of late continued, as the senior point guard failed to score on seven shot attempts. His shooting woes against top teams has been an unfortunate pattern this season.

“Obviously you don’t want your point guard to shoot 0-7, we needed more from our guards,” Dixon said.

The loss still leaves Pitt without a signature win, which could hurt them come tournament time. They will certainly have more chances at knocking off a top-tier ACC opponent, but their next two opportunities will be away from the friendly confines of the Petersen Events Center in Miami and Chapel Hill.

“We’re 0-3 (against ranked teams)…we have to go out against Miami and get it,” Artis said.

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