Nov. 27, 2010
PITTSBURGH (AP) -Pittsburgh is unbeaten with an average victory margin of 22 points, yet there's plenty for the Panthers to play for these days.
With the deepest roster coach Jamie Dixon has had in his eight seasons at Pitt, the Panthers are using their pre-Big East schedule to sort out who's going to play. There's so much competition for playing time, no player wants to waste a shot, squander a rebound or commit a turnover.
Nasir Robinson, still healing from knee surgery, led No. 5 Pittsburgh's 15-0 run to close the first half and the Panthers used their bench extensively while beating Pennsylvania 82-58 on Saturday night.
The Panthers, the first Division I team to get to 7-0, could move up to No. 3 in the AP poll following losses this week by No. 2 Michigan State and No. 4 Kansas State.
Ashton Gibbs scored 12 points and Dante Taylor and freshman J.J. Moore added 11 each as Dixon used 11 players throughout, all of them scoring and playing double-digit minutes. Robinson, a starter last season, wound up playing only 14 minutes as he competes to keep the minutes he got at forward last season.
Pitt's bench outscored the starters 46-36.
"The guys are handling it real well," Dixon said. "Everyone can't play 40 minutes. But we didn't play like we were hungry for stats. We played well, played unselfish. And that's a challenge when you have a big lead."
The Panthers shot 52.6 percent (30 of 57) even as Dixon went deeper on his bench than he has in any other game this season.
"It's beneficial for the team to be this deep," said Gilbert Brown, who had nine points and seven rebounds. "It's unique and special. We never want to take a play off."
Miles Cartwright had 22 points and Jack Eggleston 16 for Penn (2-3), which never trailed by fewer than 13 points during a second half in which Pitt led by as many as 31.
Penn fell behind 9-0 and 15-4 before closing to 21-18 on Cartwright's 3-pointer with 6:48 left in the half. The Quakers didn't score again until Eggleston's layup 30 seconds into the second half, when they trailed 36-20.
"We couldn't close out possessions," Penn coach Jerome Allen said. "I don't think their depth wore us down, I felt we didn't execute."
Penn, outrebounded 42-19 while losing to Drexel 77-56 last weekend, didn't have the size to keep Pitt off the boards or enough speed to slow the Panthers on the break. Pitt held a 10-0 rebounding edge during the final four minutes of the run and finished with a 35-20 advantage, 15-6 on the offensive end.
The decisive 15-0 run started with Brown's dunk off Travon Woodall's feed. Woodall, yanked a few minutes before by Dixon for leaving Cartwright undefended, followed with two free throws.
Robinson added a putback, a tap-in and a free throw before Taylor's three-point play made it 36-18 with 3.5 seconds left in the half.
Robinson, who started all 34 games last season, is coming off for the bench for now as he eases back into playing time. He had surgery Oct. 26 to repair torn cartilage in his right knee and, at the time, was expected to be out for up to six weeks.
Robinson, averaging 6 points per game, finished with nine points and four rebounds as Pitt held a 35-20 rebounding edge.
"I thought he played well and stayed within what he can do," Dixon said. "The reality is we've got a lot of guys (inside). He missed some quality practice and game time, but I thought he played well."
The Panthers won their 52nd straight and the 101st in their last 102 at home against non-conference opponents. They hadn't played Penn since 1976 or any Ivy League team since beating Brown 95-47 during the 1995-96 season.
Pitt played the second of nine consecutive games in Pittsburgh. The Panthers have played only two games outside the city so far, against Maryland and Texas in neutral-site games in New York City. They don't play a road game until Jan. 4 at Providence, their 15th game of the season.
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