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Pittsburgh has strong start at home behind Gray

Nov 15, 2006 - 2:40 AM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Aaron Gray made sure that Pittsburgh did not have a letdown from an emotional win.

Gray scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half as the fifth-ranked Panthers claimed their home opener with a 67-50 victory over Delaware State.

Despite a relatively easy 86-67 victory over Western Michigan on Sunday, mixed emotions were present on the Pittsburgh sideline as the squad was playing in West Point as part of the Maggie Dixon Classic. The sister of Panthers coach Jamie Dixon, Maggie died at the age of 28 in April of a heart condition after serving her first season as the women's coach for Army.

Taking advantage of his 7-0 frame inside, Gray sank 5-of-9 shots as Pittsburgh (2-0) forged a 37-27 advantage at the break. That lead held up in the second half as the Big East squad finished 51 percent (24-of-47) from the field.

"We wanted to try and shorten the length of the game but they were able to get out in transition early and it caused us some problems and we played from behind most of the night," Delaware State coach Greg Jackson said.

The reigning Big East Conference Most Improved Player, Gray also grabbed eight rebounds, including four on the offensive end.

Senior forward Levon Kendall added to the Panthers' advantage in the paint, scoring 10 points and pulling down six boards.

"We're one of the bigger teams around, so we always want to get the ball inside and I thought we did a good job of that," Dixon said.

Despite his solid shooting, Gray was more interested in discussing his struggles with passing the ball, finishing with four turnovers against three assists.

"I realize I am going to get a lot of attention when I touch the ball and that's something I need to continue to work on," he said. "I need to be aware of who is going to be open when the double-team is coming, where the double-team is coming from."

Mike Cook scored 13 points and Antonio Graves added 10 for the Panthers, who improved to 14-0 all-time against teams from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

Despite that impressive mark against the MEAC, Pittsburgh was playing a Delaware State squad that is the favorite to win the league. The Hornets returned all five starters for a team that set a school record for wins (21) last season and earned a trip to the NIT.

"To beat a team that's going to win their league, I believe, by 17 (points) was a good performance," Dixon said.

Jahsha Bluntt and Aaron Fleetwood scored 10 points apiece for the Hornets (1-1), who shot 35 percent (19-of-54), including 7-of-27 on 3-pointers.

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