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No. 17 Pitt escapes with narrow victory over La Salle

Nov 23, 2011 - 5:45 AM Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - Long Beach State showed the formula for knocking off Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center.

Nasir Robinson wouldn't let the fiesty La Salle Explorers follow suit.

The veteran forward scored 17 points with six rebounds and Travon Woodall added 12 points and 10 assists, as the 17th-ranked Panthers overcame an off shooting night from star guard Ashton Gibbs to down La Salle, 73-69.

Playing for the first time since seeing its 58-game home-court non-conference winning streak snapped against Long Beach State, the Panthers were on the ropes again, leading by a tenuous margin for nearly the entire second half.

Dante Taylor added 11 points and J.J. Moore drained three treys for the Panthers (3-1), who made 49 percent of their shots from the floor despite Gibbs' 3-for-15 shooting night. He did scored 14 points in the win.

"God win for us against a good team," said Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon. "I think La Salle has very good guard play and good inside guys. There are a lot of things we can improve on and I think that is exciting for me. I'm looking forward to what we can become."

Earl Pettis led La Salle (2-2) with 22 points and five steals, while Devon White and Sam Mills each scored 12. Leading scorer Tyreek Duren was held to nine points to go along with five assists.

"We are very frustrated, because we think if we did a couple things differently, we would have had a chance to win the game and that means a lot. Pitt is a great opponent and this is a very difficult place to play, so this was a game that we really wanted badly," said Explorers head coach Dr. John Giannini.

The Explorers came all of the way back to square the contest at 52-52 on Pettis' jumper with just over eight minutes to play, and Steve Zack's free throw actually put the Atlantic 10 underdog in front with 7:45 showing.

The Panthers quickly regained their footing with Robinson's layup and Moore's three, and the 9-0 run in all was capped by Robinson's free throw with just under 4 1/2 minutes on the clock. La Salle picked a bad time to go cold from the floor, going four minutes without a field goal until Mills' trey cut the margin to 61-56.

The lead again grew to just under double figures, 65-56, but Pittsburgh couldn't quite seal the deal. A three-point play by Duren sliced the margin to 68-64 and Pettis' layup in transition made it a one-possession game.

Again, the margin stood at six, but Pettis drained a contested trey for a 72-69 game with 44 ticks to go. La Salle had its chances late, but Mills missed a layup attempt with nine seconds left, and Taylor sealed the game with 1-of-2 from the charity stripe.

The Panthers scored the game's first six points, and La Salle didn't convert a field goal until Duren's bucket nearly 3 1/2 minutes in. The home team pushed its edge to 18-8 on the second of two consecutive treys off Moore's right hand. Robinson's layup made the score 23-12, but the Explores dominated the half's final six minutes.

Six straight from Jerrell Wright and Pettis' jumper narrowed the deficit to 24-22 with just over two minutes to play. Pittsburgh scored the next four, but buckets by Wright and Mills for La Salle in the final 35 seconds again drew the visitors within two, 28-26.

Pittsburgh tried to run away in the second half, taking a nine-point edge, 45-36, on Khem Birch's slam with just under 14 1/2 minutes left, but the pesky Explorers hung tough. Trailing 48-38, the visitors put eight quick points on the scoreboard, capped by Mills' trey and two free throws from Pettis.

Game Notes

Gibbs came into the game averaging 21.7 points per game...La Salle made just 4-of-16 from beyond the arc...This game marked just the second meeting between the two programs...Pittsburgh held a 42-24 rebounding advantage.