Aaron Gray looks for the pass inside during the first half of their game with Wright State. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)
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Pitt makes Wright State pay

Panthers marksmen on target

By Allen Wilson

Wright State was intent on stopping Pittsburgh's Aaron Gray. It should have been more worried about his teammates.

The Panthers used great outside shooting to post an easy 79-58 victory over Wright State in the last of four NCAA subregional games at HSBC Arena on Thursday night.

An announced crowd of 18,843 saw reserve guard Ronald Ramon score 14 points and forward Sam Young add 13 off the bench to lead a balanced attack as Pitt (28-7) advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament's West regional.

The third-seeded Panthers will face No. 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday with the winner moving on to the regional semifinals in San Jose, Calif.

The Panthers led 13-0 less than three minutes into the game and were up by as many as 25 points in the second half. And they did it without much offensive help from their star big man.

Gray was looking to atone for a dreadful three-point performance during Pitt's 65-42 loss to Georgetown in the Big East Tournament final.

But 14th-seeded Wright State (23-10) was intent on limiting Gray's scoring opportunities in the low post. When the Raiders collapsed on Gray, he smartly found the open shooters and they made the Raiders pay.
The Panthers shot 54.5 percent from the field. They made seven three-pointers in the first half and were 10 of 21 from long range.

"Aaron is a smart player and we know he will exploit the double teams and find his guys," said Ramon, who was 4 of 5 behind the arc. "So it was great for us to be open and to be able to knock down shots."

Gray finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, but he was a bigger factor on defense. He blocked four shots and altered a number of others. Wright State also missed shots even when Gray wasn't around.

Except for one big spurt in the first half, Wright State never got going offensively. With Pitt contesting virtually every shot, the Raiders were 33.8 percent from the floor and made just five of 20 three-point attempts.

Pitt's defense also locked up Wright State's top scorer, DaShaun Wood, who had just 13 points, six below his average.

"I think Wood is as good a guard as we've played this year, and we did a very good job on him," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "I don't remember him really getting a good, open look all night. That's a tribute to our team defense and the guards who were on him."

Pitt made 7 of 12 three-pointers and shot 54.3 percent from the field to take a 43-30 lead into halftime. The Panthers' long-range marksmanship almost turned the game into an early rout.

They drilled three straight three-pointers and made five of their first six shots overall to race out to a 13-0 lead.

"I was actually the most excited when we came out to that 13-0 run," Gray said. "It just reminded me of what great shooters we had. So when they started double- and triple-teaming me, it excited me because I knew that the guys were going to get open shots and they were knocking them down."

A Pitt cold spell allowed the Raiders to go on a 22-9 run to tie the game at 22-all. But the Panthers regained their shooting touch as three-point bombs by Ramon and Young fueled an 18-3 burst that put the Panthers in command for good at 43-28.

Forwards Mike Cook (12 points) and Levon Kendall (10) also scored in double figures for Pitt. Vaughn Duggins had 12 points for Wright State.

 

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