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Gray leads Pittsburgh over Massachusetts

Nov 19, 2006 - 12:38 AM PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Aaron Gray made the most of his limited minutes, but Pittsburgh did just fine without him.

A 7-foot senior center, Gray scored 14 points in 17 minutes to lead a balanced attack Pittsburgh to an 85-68 win over Massachusetts in the second round of the Colonial Classic.

Mike Cook also scored 14 points as the Panthers had five players in double figures in winning their 15th consecutive non-conference game.

With Gray on the bench because of foul trouble, Pittsburgh (4-0) scored the final seven points of the first half to take a 46-37 lead at the break and steadily pulled away in the second 20 minutes.

"We feel (the bench) is a strength of ours and we're not surprised," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We practice for those situations where we have Aaron sitting out. We play with different rotations and different groups. It was good to see a lot of guys play well against a very good team.

"UMass is one of the best teams in the Atlantic 10, so this was a good challenge for us."

Gray, who shot 6-of-8 from the field, returned for the second half but suffered a cut on his lip in the first minute that required seven stitches. By the time he returned, the Panthers had built a 68-52 lead with just under 11 minutes remaining.

"Their big guy (Gray) got in foul trouble, which is what we wanted to try to accomplish," UMass coach Travis Ford said. "We went right at him to get him in foul trouble early, but we didn't take advantage of it.

"When Gray went out of the game, their guards took over. I love the pace that they play at. Great teams are going to finish you out and I think Pittsburgh is without question one of the top three or four teams in the country."

The Panthers stretched the lead to 13 points only to see the Minutemen climb back within 58-49 on a jumper by Rashaun Freeman.

Pitt's Antonio Graves responded by nailing a 3-pointer to start a 12-3 run, which he capped with a layup to make it 70-52 with 10:36 to play.

UMass (2-1) never got the lead under double digits until the final 1:18.

Tyrell Biggs had a big game off the bench in place of Gray, tying a career high with 11 points and grabbing eight rebounds in 27 minutes.

"I just took my time and took smart shots," Biggs said. "I didn't rush my shots. I set good screens and made good passes to my teammates.

"He's worked hard and changed his diet," Dixon said of Biggs. "He is quicker. He jumps better. He's done all the things you need to do to improve."

Levance Fields scored 13 and Graves added 12 for Pitt, which shot 50 percent (31-of-62) from the field.

"A lot of the UMass players were recruited by the Big East so this was definitely a great test," said Fields, who also had five assists and did not commit a turnover in 29 minutes. "When AG (Gray) went out, Tyrell (Biggs) stepped up today and played real big on defense."

Stephane Lasme scored 17 points to lead UMass, which shot 48 percent (23-of-48).

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