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Panthers improve to 29-0 vs. Colonials

PITTSBURGH -- Eleven minutes to go, and No. 5 Pittsburgh leads a familiar opponent that's never beaten the Panthers by only five points. Within a couple minutes, it's a rout.

Maybe that explains why the Panthers, unlike nearly every other major college team, usually win the games they're supposed to win -- as evidenced by their 100-1 record in their past 101 nonconference home games.

Ashton Gibbs scored 20 points and Gilbert Brown's soaring dunk started Pittsburgh on a 14-2 run, allowing the Panthers to pull away from Robert Morris for a 74-53 victory on Tuesday night.

Brad Wanamaker scored 17 points and Gary McGhee had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Panthers (6-0), who are 29-0 against their suburban Pittsburgh rival. Brown added 11 points and Nasir Robinson had 11 rebounds in 23 minutes as Pitt held a 51-36 edge on the boards.

"I saw doubt in my guys' eyes and that's scary as a coach," Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said.

It's not an uncommon sight for opponents at the Petersen Events Center, where Pitt is 136-11.

"We've had good players, and we've got good players," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said when asked about Pitt's ability to dodge the home-court upsets that occur nightly in major college basketball. "It's kind of what we do. It's like, 'We've seen this before.'"

Robert Morris (2-2) has seen this many times before in a series in which it has been outscored by an average of 23 points in the past 11 games.

Russell Johnson scored 15 points on 6-of-20 shooting, but the Colonials shot only 30.9 percent without leading scorer Karon Abraham. He was held out for undisclosed disciplinary reasons.

The Panthers opened leads of 14-7 and 24-11, but eight consecutive points by Johnson that included a pair of 3-pointers cut it to 24-19. Pitt made it 33-23 before the Colonials scored the final five points of the half.

Last season, the Panthers took control during their 77-53 victory against the Colonials by starting the second half with a 20-4 run. They tried repeating that by scoring nine of the first 11 points after halftime, but a 9-2 surge by the Colonials made it 44-39.

Robert Morris then had a chance to get within 3 but couldn't score -- and it wasn't in the game again. After that, 3-pointers by Brown, Gibbs and Wanamaker in a span of exactly two minutes allowed Pitt to start building its lead in a hurry.

The Panthers effectively sealed it when Brown was fouled while dunking, taking off from the low block along the foul lane. He missed the free throw, but McGhee scored on a putback, was fouled and completed a three-point play that made it 58-41 with 7:07 remaining.

"That was the start of the end for us," said Toole, who felt his players got out of their offense by trying to beat defenders one-on-one. "They defend, rebound and for the most part take care of the basketball. They don't beat themselves."

Pitt took its first 20-point lead at 68-48 on freshman J.J. Moore's leaning 10-footer.

Abraham's absence was a major setback for a team that shot 35.6 percent in its first three games and then made only 21-of-68 shots against Pitt. Abraham averages 14 points and had 16 points against Pitt last season.

The Colonials, best known nationally for nearly upsetting second-seeded Villanova in last season's NCAA tournament, regularly compete with and against the Panthers in Pittsburgh's summer college league. As a result, the Panthers weren't surprised by the Colonials' ability to play tight defense, force turnovers -- Pitt had 15 to Robert Morris' eight -- and get a team out of what it does best.

Only the Colonials couldn't do it for 40 minutes.

"We always seem to play better in the second half," Robinson said.