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No. 15 Pittsburgh rocks VMI 97-70

VMI's Stan Okoye, left, knocks the ball away from Pittsburgh's Cameron Wright (3) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011, in Pittsburgh. VMI's Stan Okoye, left, knocks the ball away from Pittsburgh's Cameron Wright (3) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
By Will Graves
AP Sports Writer / December 6, 2011
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PITTSBURGH—Ashton Gibbs scored 20 points and No. 15 Pittsburgh rolled to its sixth straight win with a 97-70 victory over VMI on Tuesday.

Nasir Robinson added 19 points, 14 rebounds and five assists for the Panthers (8-1), who shot 49 percent from the floor and made a season-high 13 3-pointers while easily outscoring the uptempo but overmatched Keydets.

Jordan Weethee led VMI (3-5) with 18 points but the Keydets (3-5) simply lacked the firepower to keep up.

Three days after grinding out a 61-56 win at Tennessee, Pitt nearly matched that total by halftime, racing to a 57-33 lead at the break behind a dizzying number of 3-pointers and layups.

VMI briefly pulled within 15 in the second half before the Panthers were off to the races again.

The game is a one-off of sorts for the Panthers, as it is for nearly all of VMI's opponents.

The Keydets have only one player over 6-foot-7 and try to make up for it by turning things into a track meet. It's worked well at times. VMI famously won at Kentucky in 2008, though there was no chance of repeating the feat against Pitt.

The Panthers are still in the midst of finding themselves, though they showed their typical grit while holding off the Volunteers on the road Saturday, a revenge game of sorts after Tennessee beat them down the road at the Consol Energy Center a year ago.

There would be no letdown against the Keydets, though the Panthers did their best early to slow things down. VMI actually held onto the ball for nearly the entire 35-second shotclock on its first possession -- a rarity -- and Pitt played with its usual defensive intensity for the game's first 4 minutes, or long enough to force VMI to miss its first seven shots from the floor.

By then Pitt was already up 6-0 and just getting started.

Coach Jamie Dixon substituted liberally -- Pitt's reserves actually outscored VMI 34-33 in the first half -- as whoever he plugged into the lineup produced.

J.J. Moore hit four 3-pointers in the half on his way to 16 points while John Johnson showed flashes at both ends of the floor while competing with freshman Cameron Wright for the starting point guard spot in place of injured Travon Woodall, who will miss the next month with a groin strain.

The Keydets have lost four straight while playing an ambitious nonconference schedule, including a 103-74 loss to No. 2 Ohio State two weeks ago.

They played the Panthers closer but couldn't find their footing until after spotting the Panthers a 24-point halftime lead. Pitt's 57 points in the opening half were a Petersen Events Center record, surpassing the previous mark of 55 points set against Houston Baptist in 2007.

VMI put together a 13-4 burst to start the second half and pulled to 61-46 before Gibbs went to work. The senior missed seven of his first eight 3-point attempts but hit five in the final 16 minutes as the Panthers cruised to roll into a showdown with Oklahoma State at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.

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